First posted on Mark Is Cranky:
If you remove the traditional anchor element, the bass, from the jazz trio, an interesting thing happens. By necessity, the other players must move to fill in that role. The responsibility for the bottom end becomes fluid, shifting from musician to musician as inspiration strikes.
Take the case of recordings like Undercurrent by Bill Evans and Jim Hall. The lack of bass allowed both Hall and Evans to add low-end lines and phrases exactly where they made sense, unencumbered by the 'normal' roles of their instruments.
Trumpeter Enrico Rava's latest release, Tati, makes great use of that sort of 'role transposition'. The bottom line duality mostly occurs between pianist Stefano Bollani and drummer Paul Motian. This definitely plays to Motian's strength: that of an extremely sensitive and melodic drummer. His ability to imply a song's basic architecture with a minimum number of strokes is perfectly complemented by Bollani's delicate and gorgeous phrasings.
All of this leaves Rava with a great deal of interesting space in which to fit his warm horn lines. Space is the key word here. Not only does Rava take great care to play just what is needed (and no more...a trait he shares with Miles), he also give his sidemen great latitude. This gives the compositions time to develop, breaking most of them away from the head/solos/head model.
The selections on Tati reveal quite a lot about the leader's musical history. The opening interpretation of Gershwin's "The Man I Love" wrings every last drop of romance out of the notes. In a nod to Rava's free jazz years, there's a nice "Cornettology", full of plenty of tumbling unison play. Paul Motian brings three selections to the table as well. The closing "Gang of 5" is a perfect example of what this trio is all about: melody. Though not without its angularities, the melodies remain romantic and warm. Bollani shows that he can write as well as play on his own "Casa Di Bambola". Somehow he manages to traverse both ends of the keyboard without turning things into a chops-fest.
I continue to be impressed with Enrico Rava 'modern' concept. It's as though you can hear all of Rava's past musical experiences (including the European free jazz movement) reduced and intensified. Best of all, his rapport with Bollani is just stunning, making me look forward to their future together.