Album review: The Monash Sessions with Enrico Rava (Leon Gettler)

The Monash Sessions (Jazzhead)
Students from the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, with Enrico Rava

Review by Leon Gettler

ravaA fascinating and important project that makes compelling listening. It’s jazz in the making, an album dedicated to the development of talent going back to December 2013 when students from Monash University’s Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music went to the university’s Prato Centre in Italy where they participated in a three week performance unit. This was the initiative of Associate Professor and Head of School and tenor sax artist Robert Burke. Working with recording company Jazzhead, they produced this album, showcasing the talents of the students working with trumpet maestro Enrico Rava, probably Italy’s most renowned jazz musicians who has been around since the 1960s and who has put out something like 50 albums. Rava has toured Australia, appearing at this year’s Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues (it was a long time coming – he was originally booked to play at the festival in 1996 but couldn’t secure a visa) so there is a connection.

What really holds this album together is the senior music faculty members, all of them accomplished musicians including pianist Paul Grabowsky, Burke, and Mirrko Guerrini (saxophone) and Stephen Magnusson (guitar). Listen to the album and you can hear them guiding the talented students Paul Cornelius and Stephen Byth (tenor sax), Daniel Mougerman and Joel Trigg (piano), Rob Mercer, Cameron Sexton and Zeke Ruckman (drums), and Josh Manusama and Hiroki Hoshino (bass).

You can hear it on the first track “Fearless Five’, a straight-ahead boppish piece where the steady background beat and voice from Grabowsky’s piano provides the drive for the horns from Cornelius and Kelly, taking it away with a glorious solo before Cornelius comes in with his explorations. Then Rava takes it away, until the horns come back in with their bop figure. It’s great fun to listen to. Another piece that captures the way the masters take control and steer the students is on the gentle and elegiac “Rain’ which opens with Rava’s eloquence against the guitar of Skourletos. The delightful part here is the way Burke then enters the track, answering Rava and extending the ideas raised in that first solo. It’s a fascinating dialogue between two masters, allowing Skourletos to then come in with his own solo to be capped off and made full by Rava, then doubling with Burke. The work of Moore on drums and Manusama on double bass is eloquent and respectful. Listen carefully to it and you can hear the way the students are being stretched out.

Another is ‘Incognito’ which opens with Mougerman playing a two note figure on the piano, accompanied by the drum work from Mercer and Rackman, the students setting the scene for Rava’s sound against the gentle voice from Magnusson, joined by Burke and Byth. The two sax-players work together, answering each other, creating a captivating and slow dance rhythm that holds the listener in rapt fascination. And then there’s Rava and Magnusson working off each other, answering the other’s voice. It makes intriguing listening. And once more, you feel this is a real journey of discovery for the students.

Recorded, mixed and mastered at Sonoria Recording Plant in Prato (Italy) on December 14-15 2013.


Personnel: Enrico Rava – trumpet
Paul Grabowsky – piano
Robert Burke – tenor sax
Stephen Magnusson – guitar
Josh Kelly – alto sax
Paul Cornelius – tenor sax
Josh Manusama – double bass
Rob Mercer – drums
Mirko Guerrini – tenor sax
Hiroki Hoshino – double bass
Zeke Ruckman – drums
Stephen Byth – tenor sax
Dan Mougerman – piano
Joel Trigg – piano
Rohan Moore – drums
Jonathan Skourletos – guitar

Listen and purchase


The Monash Sessions on iTunes

The Monash Sessions on Amazon

The Monash Sessions at Bandcamp