At 66, trumpeter Enrico Rava now stands with the likes of pianist Giorgio Gaslini and reedist Gianluigi Trovesi as a grand old man of Italian jazz. He's had an affinity for musical alchemy since the early 60s, when he began his career recording with Gato Barbieri and Steve Lacy; later he performed on Carla Bley's monumental avant-garde composition Escalator Over the Hill and recorded a series of ECM albums on which his pianoless quartet geed against the label's famously well-mannered musical direction. Even within his own playing, he synthesizes cool phrasing and fervent emotion. For his first Chicago show since the 2000 Jazz Fest, Rava's joined by pianist Stefano Bollani, who you can bet will command as much attention as his mentor. Bollani has performed in Rava's groups throughout this decade and has released several discs of his own, though they've been sparsely distributed here. He first spun my head around with Mi Ritorni in Mente (Stunt), a 2003 trio album by Danish bassist Jesper Bodilsen; Bollani stole the show with his authoritative phrasing, rhythmic sparkle, and freewheeling mastery of musical narrative. Half Rava's age, Bollani has created a starkly original style with similar virtues: his voluptuous improvised melodies are never more than a heartbeat away from anarchy, with adventurous harmonies and sometimes strident textures. You couldn't ask for more than to hear him in this most intimate of collaborations, working inside Rava's leonine poetry. This is Bollani's Chicago debut. Tue 4/4, 7 and 10 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $15.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.