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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby




Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, Oxford, 27 April 2008


Having much enjoyed the latest CD by Enrico Rava & Stefano Bollani (The Third Man on the ECM label (see my review ), I was eager to see the duo in the flesh - and I wasn't disappointed.

The chemistry between trumpeter Rava and pianist Bollani is not only extraordinary but heart-warming. These two musicians have an enviable rapport which allows them to match one another in brilliant invention. One of them starts an idea which the other takes up and develops - then the first player takes the new idea and develops it further. They play games with each other - presenting challenges and responding to them; introducing unexpected twists and jokey quotations. Their improvisations can arouse mirth as well as wonderment - particularly from Stefano Bollani, whose technique is as astonishing as his endless inventiveness. Enrico Rava's playing is similarly virtuosic, although he never used a mute, which meant that the volume he generated was sometimes overpowering.

I can't list all the tunes they played, as their announcements were in a jovial mixture of English and Italian which was not always audible. A voice microphone would have been an asset. The first three numbers were apparently compositions by Enrico Rava, the second taking circuitous routes driven by Stefano's propulsive left hand. At no time during the evening did I feel the lack of bass or drums, since Bollani's comprehensive pianistics supplied all the rhythm necessary. Antonio Carlos Jobim's ballad Photograph was handled tenderly until its end, when Stefano set up an ominous vamp. This closed the first half of the concert, which seemed to pass quicker than almost any other concert I have attended.

The second half also whizzed by, with the highlight an uproariously disrespectful version of Cheek to Cheek, with Rava pretending that he didn't know the tune, some right-hand work from Bollani that would have made Art Tatum jealous, and interposed quotations from A Man and a Woman and Land of Hope and Glory! In what other forms of music besides jazz can one find such humour blended in with the tunes? The audience demanded several encores, which included I'm Getting Sentimental Over You in which Stefano played a Garneresque left hand.

This was a remarkable concert - not only for the empathic and almost faultless playing but also because the audience refrained from applauding until each number was ended. Too many audiences think they have to clap after every solo - good, bad or indifferent - yet this is not only intrusive but also displays a lack of discrimination.

Tony Augarde






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