Smooth Criminal

Progressive cacophony in 2013

(l-r) Enrico Rava, Michael Jackson
(l-r) Enrico Rava, Michael Jackson

Metal today knots up like classic jazz. Gotta listen – closely, sometimes. Free fall virtuosity bangs heads indiscriminately, brass, banjos, and bombast by design.

At Red 7 recently, after all the festivals had finally gone home for the year, a well-scrubbed collegiate couple hugged casually during Morbid Angel, watching its guitar goblins shred progressive cacophony. The full house focused: study hall. When the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen, reels off 16 permutations of metal during a South by Southwest keynote speech, maybe the mainstream's at hand.

First time Rava on the Dance Floor played through, last January when it came out – me deconstructing a closet looking for a car title – "Thriller" made me look up. Michael Jackson covered by an Italian trumpet player, senior member of European Miles Davis acolytes in the Fifties and Sixties? That's prog. Once 20 years of papyrus littered my home office floor, I absentmindedly hit repeat. This time, another moonwalk "left bloodstains on the carpet."

Annie are you OK

So, Annie are you OK

Are you OK, Annie

Annie are you OK

Electric guitar and bass beat out the riff, Rava blowing silver notes into the open air of a Roman venue accompanied by a dozen pieces. Brass takes the refrain, poking horn funk into the cat-walking bass and axe murder for the solo. Holy cross-pollination, Batman (I'd sold my bachelor mobile that day). Turns out Rava on the Dance Floor serves one sovereign only:

"In his lifetime, I had only superficial acquaintance with Michael Jackson's work," writes the 74-year-old Rava. "But returning home from a gig, a few days after his passing, I found my wife Lidia watching a DVD of his concert in Bucharest, and was swept away as if by a tornado.

"From that moment onward, I couldn't live without his music."

Rava on the Dance Floor, same maelstrom – only not from Brooklyn, nor two DJs and a karaoke waif, and God forbid, never Yeezus. Closer "History" stomps metallic. Buy local, shun the provincial.

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