This live album breaks with Enrico Rava’s own traditions. In his ECM albums, all the way back to 1974’s “The Pilgrim And The Stars”, Rava has set his own compositions in the foreground. Not this time. Nor does he pay tribute to aspects of jazz history. Instead, on “Rava on the Dance Floor” the great Italian trumpeter (b. 1939) enthusiastically turns his attention to the musical universe of the late Michael Jackson. And in this unexpected context, drawing also upon the energy of the Parco della Musica Jazz Lab band, he delivers impassioned and extroverted trumpet playing.
Rava acknowledges that he had paid scant attention to Michael Jackson during the singer’s earthly existence, and it wasn’t until June 2009 and the days after Jackson’s death that Enrico, curiosity piqued by the intensity of the media coverage, began to listen to his music in earnest, finding himself more and more attracted by its range of possibilities. “What finally convinced me,” he says, “was the contagious riff of ‘Smooth Criminal’. The fact is that, from a certain moment on, Michael Jackson simply invaded my life. My wife and I bought all the Jackson discs and videos we could find. And my long and dull road trips were transformed into enthusiastic listening sessions. It became clear to me that for years I had ignored one of the great protagonists of 20th century music and dance. A total artist, a perfectionist, a genius. I was especially knocked out by the film ‘This is it’, which documents the rehearsals for that extraordinary show. How amazing to see that 50-year old Peter Pan, so fragile and vulnerable, transformed into a benevolent but absolute authority on stage, in control of every small detail, correcting a spotlight, the emphasis of a bass note, a dancer’s step, or the length of a musical pause.”
Challenging conventional pop wisdom, Rava considers the later Jackson albums to be the better ones, with “History” and “Invincible” as particular favourites. He praises the call-and-response of “Stranger In Moscow” and the melody of “Speechless”, considers “Little Susie” a masterpiece, and endorses also Jackson’s affection for the Charlie Chaplin tune “Smile.”
“I felt the necessity to delve deeper into Jackson’s music by adding something of myself to it. In Mauro Ottolini I found the ideal partner for the arrangements. The band could only be the PMJL. And the place the Auditorium Parco della Musica di Roma, where everything got its start.” (It was after a concert at the Auditorium that Rava had first learned of Jackson’s death).
The PMJL Parco della Musica Jazz Lab is an ensemble produced by the Foundation Musica per Roma with a focus on young jazz talents. Its projects to date have all been directed by Enrico Rava, and the line-up on “Rava On The Dance Floor” includes pianist Giovanni Guidi from Enrico’s regular quintet (as heard on the recent “Tribe” album).
Arranger Mauro Ottolini has released a number of albums as a leader, and has played with international musicians including Carla Bley, Bill Frisell and Maria Schneider.
“Rava On The Dance Floor” was recorded live at the Auditorium Parco della Musica di Roma on 20th May and 30th November 2011 by Roberto Lioli, Massimiliano Cervini, Luca Padovano and mixed at Udine’s Artesuono studio.