This hugely popular trumpet player (born in Trieste, 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 with Chet Baker. Right after, 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 (JCOA). After his first album as a leader, Il Giro del Giorno in 80 Mondi (Black Saint), he's been leading his own pianoless quartets/quintets. His recorded output numbers 100 records, 30 as a leader.
ECM has reissued some of his essential recordings of the '70s, like The Pilgrim and the Stars, The Plot, and E. R. Quartet, while Soul Note and Label Bleu published CDs by his innovative Electric Five (in reality a sextet, he always excludes himself from the count) which includes two electric guitars. With keyboard-master Franco D'Andrea and trumpeter Paolo Fresu, Rava recorded Bix and Pop (Philology) and Shades of Chet, tributes to Bix Beiderbecke and Armstrong, and to Chet Baker, respectively. Also of note are Rava, L'Opera Va and Carmen, gorgeous readings of opera arias. In 2001 he created a new quintet with young talents Gianluca Petrella, Stefano Bollani, Rosario Bonaccorso, and Roberto Gatto, and toured with old-friends Roswell Rudd and Gato Barbieri.