There’s nothing that really prepares your ears for the cacophonous symphony of odd textures, haunting and expansive ambiences, out of the blue soloing, intense electronica immersions and – the piece de resistance – Enrico Rava’s occasional beautiful trumpet and flugelhorn passages on the veteran Italian jazz hero’s five part collection For Mario (Live),” a whimsical creation by his group Rava, Herbert, Guidi.
Though the trio has occasionally performed live since 2016 following a commission for Nylon Festival in Vercelli, Italy, an introduction of his cohorts is necessary to better understand the many moving parts and dynamics of this unusual digital only release. It’s a fascinating intergenerational affair whose emotional core pits Rava’s wafting, then sometimes oddly percussive horns against the alternately sensitive yet wildly musing piano of the much younger Giovanni Guidi.
Their jazzy instincts are then whipped into the revolutionary, sample heavy electronica blender of British composer and electronic music pioneer Matthew Herbert. To create the five distinct parts (Part 1, Part 2, etc), Herbert recorded hundreds of samples of his two cohorts. These became the basis for every trippy sonic detail he crafted, twisted and manipulated.
The way, way, way off the beaten path aural magnificence/insanity was designed to simulate a quartet, with the two acoustic performers improvising over recordings of themselves. Beyond Herbert’s ingenious knob twisting, fellow electronic musician and noted instrument builder Huge Jones adds extra layers of sampling. As you listen, you will feel everything from calm bliss to disturbing annoyance as the three musicians take you on their fascinating journey.
Though it may not have been intended as such, it may be helpful to think of this as a maddening musical reflection of life on planet earth in 2020. It might also be helpful to know that the Mario referred to in the title is Guidi’s late father and manager, who was Rava’s best friend for 30 years.