Enrico Rava This hugely popular trumpet player (born in Trieste, Italy in 1939) almost single-handedly brought Italian jazz to international attention. He began playing Dixieland trombone in Turin, but after hearing Miles Davis, switched instruments and embraced the modern style. Other key meetings were with Gato Barbieri, with whom he recorded movie soundtracks in 1962, and Chet Baker. He began to play with Steve Lacy; he also teamed up with South African expatriates Louis Moholo and John Dyani and recorded The Forest and the Zoo (ESP) live in Argentina. In 1967, he moved to New York, playing with Roswell Rudd, Marion Brown, Rashied Ali, Cecil Taylor, and Charlie Haden. In a brief return to Europe, Rava recorded with Lee Konitz (Stereokonitz, RCA) and Manfred Schoof (European Echoes, FMP). From 1969 to 1976, he was back in New York, recording Escalator Over the Hill with Carla Bley's Jazz Composers' Orchestra. After his first album as a leader, Il Giro del Giorno in 80 Mondi (Black Saint), he began to lead his own pianoless quartets and quintets. His recorded output numbers 100 records, 30 as a leader.
Geri Allen is the quintessence of what a present-day mainstream jazz pianist should be. Well-versed in a variety of modern jazz styles from bop to free, Allen steers a middle course in her own music, speaking in a cultivated and moderately distinctive voice, respectful of, but not overly impressed with, the doctrine of conservatism that often rules the mainstream scene. There is little conceptually that separates her from her most obvious models -- Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, and Bill Evans primary among them -- yet Allen plays with a spontaneity and melodic gift that greatly transcend rote imitation. Her improvisational style is at various times both spacious and dense, rubato and swinging, blithe and percussive. It's a genuinely expressive, personal voice; her music is an amalgam -- honestly conceived, intelligently accessible, and well within the bounds of what is popularly expected from a jazz musician of her generation.