Italian trumpet player Enrico Rava must have a pretty efficient shielding system for keeping pop music out of his life. The inspiration for this live concert is the music of Michael Jackson, music which Rava only discovered after the singer’s passing in 2009. Equally surprising is that he is of the opinion that the star’s later works, History and the karmically challenging Invincible, are his best but maybe that’s what comes of approaching the body of work today. He is not immune to the classics however, apparently it was the riff in Smooth Criminal that got under his skin in the first place. The emphasis on later works is probably why the source of these pieces does not become obvious until you hear the familiar strains of Thriller, the third number.
Rava is accompanied by the Parco della Musica Jazz Lab from Rome, an ensemble that focuses on young musicians who were presumably not quite so new to the work. They are eleven strong with a brass section, electric guitar and keyboards among their number. The band features Giovanni Guidi the pianist from Rava’s Quintet, a rather good bass player in Dario Deidda and arranger Mauro Ottolini who has worked with Carla Bley and Bill Frisell among others
Having not heard the original of They Don’t Care About Us the intro seems more Rava than Jackson but a tune develops soon enough albeit one that the trumpeter makes his mark on in pretty distinct terms. As the album title suggests this is as much about fun as it is about musicianship but contains some outstanding playing from Rava who steps in for the voice on tunes that are arranged so as to reveal new aspects of their form without losing site of the genius that went into their creation. The band has both energy, dynamics and flair. Despite Rava’s obvious enthusiam for his subject this will probably be a too intense for the average Jackson fan, but those looking for a great sounding live band injecting a bit of variety into new standards will find plenty to enjoy.
listen to: I Just Can’t Stop Loving You, Smooth Criminal