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

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The Third Man

ECM Records ECM 173 7322




1. Estate
2. The Third Man
3. Sun Bay
4. Retrato Em Branco Y Preto
5. Birth of a Butterfly
6. Cumpari
7. Sweet Light
8. Santa Teresa
9. Felipe
10. In Search of Titina
11. Retrato Em Branco Y Preto, var.

12. Birth of a Butterfly, var.
Enrico Rava - Trumpet
Stefano Bollani - Piano


There is no sign of a generation gap between trumpeter Enrico Rava, in his late sixties, and Stefano Bollani, who was aged 33 when this album was recorded in November 2006. The two Italians are well known in the world of free jazz as well as more conventional music - and both men and their eclectic styles combine superbly on this CD.

I'm not a great fan of free jazz, probably because of its negativity. As the New Grove Encyclopedia of Jazz remarks: "Free probably best defined by its negative features". Too often, free improvisation consists of an arbitrary sequence of notes, full of sound and fury but signifying very little. However, I can take the free elements in this duo's performances, because both men listen to one another and respond to each other's moves and ideas. Their evident empathy is one of the winning aspects of the CD. Much of the music is not "free" as such but has a refreshing element of freedom about it, even when the players are improvising on a melody. Enrico Rava composed half the tracks on the album, while Stefano Bollani contributed Santa Teresa. Estate is a well-known song by Bruno Martino & Bruno Brighetti, while Felipe is by Moacir Santos and Retrato Em BrancoY Preto is by Antonio Carlos Jobim.

The album was recorded at the Auditorio Radio Svizzera in Lugano, and its echoing acoustic adds to the appeal of the music. In fact you feel that both musicians are using the echoes to fill out the music and suggest new voicings. Enrico Rava is sometimes tempted into shrieking out very high notes on the trumpet but in general he maintains a lyrical style which is very appealing. Stefano Bollani's playing is superbly responsive: both accompanying the trumpet, throwing in his own ideas and playing some truly beautiful solos. Bollani coaxes a flowing, liquid sound from the piano, which tends to offset Rava's wilder excesses. This is a CD I am going to keep.

And who is "The Third Man" of the album title? The press release says that, after it was recorded, the second track (a piece of free improvisation) was dedicated to actor Orson Welles - star of the 1949 film The Third Man. But the third man might be producer Manfred Eicher, whose feet can just be seen at the bottom left-hand side of the front cover.

Tony Augarde

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