Enrico Rava Tribe featuring Gianluca Petrella
Studio Series
Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Studio
Thursday, June 25, 2015 - 9 p.m.

From the first delicate notes filling the NAC Studio, it was clear that this show was going to be a spectacular pairing. The warm lines from Enrico Rava on flugelhorn and Gianluca Petrella on trombone intertwined into a finely-tuned soundscape.

The 75-year-old Rava, a veteran of Italian jazz, and the 40-year-old Petrella have been performing together since Petrella was 22. That experience showed; they could play intensely in unison, or create complementary melodies, or contrast smooth and frantic lines. And always they were working together to create a joyous experience.

They were also strongly supported by the driving rhythm section of Giovanni Guidi on piano, Gabriele Evangelista on double bass, and Fabrizio Sferra on drums. Guidi, in particular, added to the drama and nuance of every piece. His playing could be sparkling fast, or romantic, or accented with added glissandos; once he twanged the strings inside his grand piano.

Rava didn't announce the names of any of the six pieces played in this concert, or whether they were from any specific album. But they clearly all fit together. They tended towards the dramatic, often beginning quietly and building up to multi-layered behemoths with Petrella's trombone slicing through.

And they all had lively melodies and varied rhythms, lots of opportunities to showcase all the musicians, strong forward momentum – and crowd appeal. Each piece was greeted by strong applause by a crowd that almost completely filled the Studio. And when the end of the fifth piece signalled the end of the concert, the crowd jumped to its feet for an immediate standing ovation.

Even though the group had played for almost 80 minutes, they returned for an encore: a full-bodied rendition of the sunny Latin standard “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps”, with Rava's flugelhorn lovingly caressing the melody and Petrella adding the accents – and then switching places. With Guidi adding bright piano and with dancing rhythms on bass and drums, it was a fine, flourishing ending for a satisfying concert – and elicited another standing ovation.

The Enrico Rava Tribe is a group which can reach out to an audience beyond jazz diehards. With its high energy and its jubilantly complex music, the Tribe would have been a natural for the Ottawa Jazz Festival's main stage that evening. And if the festival wanted to share the joy of jazz, Rava would have been a far more suitable ambassador than a blues-rock guitarist whose biggest hits were in the 1970s.

    – Alayne McGregor

Note: OttawaJazzScene.ca received review access to the Ottawa Jazz Festival but was denied access for our photojournalist, Brett Delmage. Therefore we are unable to publish photos with this review.