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Italian trumpeter Rava is the brand name on this album of Michael Jackson tunes but it's clearly an ensemble effort. This is not to say that Rava doesn't solo beautifully -he does, but so do others among the young musicians in this twelve-piece ensemble. The arranger -who doubles on trombone and tuba in the ensemble- Mauro Ottolini deserves credit for his imaginative arrangements: they remind one of Gil Evans's for Jimi Hendrix, (cf. Gil Evans Plays Jimi Hendrix) mixed together with a Fellini soundtrack. (I didn't know until I checked on Wikipedia that Rava played with Gil Evans some time in the 70s or 80s, although apparently he didn't record with him.) The songs are presented as a suite with musical transitions between them. The only song by Jackson that I recognized at a glance was "Thriller." The others are mostly from his later albums. I hadn't known that Jackson had recorded the Charlie Chaplin tune, "Smile!" It's lovely, as is Rava's lyrical rendition of it here.

The solo and ensemble sounds evoked from Rava makes evident his affinity with Miles Davis, whom he has named as inspiration in the past. But on this album, it's the late Miles, the Miles who melded pop music with jazz and recorded songs like Cyndi Lauper's `Time After Time' and an album like Tutu. Rava's facility in playing and his relaxed light sweet tone show to advantage on even the jumpiest and most percussive of these tunes. Ottolini has a few short solos on trombone, so does tenor man Kinzel, but the bear among soloists other than Rava is the guitarist, Gianninni, who plays blistering rock solos that latch on to the pop roots of Jackson's effervescent music. The two drummers drive the music: they do a good job of it but aren't otherwise particularly distinctive. (I wonder what a drummer like Billy Cobham would have done with it. Or Ginger Baker.)

The album captures two live concerts by the Parco della Musica Jazz Lab, presented in Rome in May and November of 2011. The music is very good and it's heartening to see an old lion like Rava work with bright young musicians from the coming generation.
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on January 15, 2013
Enrico Rava play Michael Jackson¡ probably the more strange ECM production ever. Rava play great and simple arranged of Michael Jackson music, in live. Great band, great moments of music but strange for Rava feelings. Is nice, but not great. Is something between Brecker Brothers, Jackson and Rava. The four stars are for the singularity of this "unique"ECM colaboration. Really strange this kind of pop music in this ECM catalog, but fine at least, specially the Chaplin song, this one is great. Specially interesting for Rava fans. He is great even with this kind of material
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on September 27, 2013
When I first heard this album was coming, I was desperate to hear it. The idea of Enrico Rava making a large-ensemble recording (as far as I know, for the first time since Carla Bley's "Escalator over the Hill," forty-odd years ago) was irresistible. And even more, the idea of his taking on Michael Jackson's gorgeously danceable music was just...wonderful. (And on ECM! How is it possible that anyone could have talked Manfred Eicher into that?) But the record just doesn't live up to that promise. The young musicians were clearly having a lot of fun, and the audience (this is a live recording) seem to be enjoying themselves tremendously, too. But somehow, for me at least, the pleasure just doesn't doesn't come through on the record. The arrangements seem perfunctory, most of the soloists are...nothing special, and even Rava seems to have dialed backed his virtuosity, perhaps to avoid showing up the others.

I've actually been reluctant to write this review, because I love Rava's music so much. This man is one of the most important musicians alive, and one of the most fun. I own perhaps two dozen of his recordings, and can recommend almost any of them unreservedly. But I'd hate to have anyone who's new to Rava's music start with this album, which is neither representative nor (in my opinion) very good. Better to start with almost any of his other recent ECM recordings, like "Easy Living" and "Tribe," or (if you can find them) some of his more obscure titles, like "Chanson" with the French accordionist Richard Galliano or "Quatre," with the amazing rhythm section of Miroslav Vitous and Daniel Humair, which is probably my personal favourite.

I really hope no one who reads this will be put off exploring Rava's music. He's great, truly great. But this album probably isn't the place to start.
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on March 7, 2013
This is truly a mediocre ensemble effort. The arrangements seem to echo one cliche after another. It is a strange mixture of old big band charts and bad disco background structures. It certainly suggests a giant step backward for ensemble jazz. The soloing is a slight relief from the pomp and repetition of the band. When I first listened, I couldn't believe that the arrangers had ever even heard Michael Jackson's music. It has more in common with the terrible soundtrack recordings from 70s youth exploitation films. I played it again today and couldn't make it through any of the tracks. It is rather surprising that the music of a seminal artist could inspire something so unlistenable. I give it one star for Rava who deserves better and one star for ECM who rarely disappoints on this scale.
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