He originally played trombone, changing to the trumpet after hearing Miles Davis. He has played with artists such as Carla Bley, Jeanne Lee, Paul Motian, Lee Konitz and Roswell Rudd. Chiefly an exponent of bebop jazz, Enrico Rava has also played successfully in avant-garde settings.
His style may partly recall Kenny Wheeler"s in its spareness and lightness of tone, albeit Rava"s is harmonically simpler.
In the 1970s and 1980s he worked with Pat Metheny, Michel Petrucciani, John Abercrombie, Joe Henderson, Richard Galliano, Miroslav Vitouš, Andrea Centazzo, Joe Lovano, Gil Evans and Cecil Taylor. With trumpeter Paolo Fresu, Rava recorded a series of four CDs on the influence of Bix Beiderbecke, Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, and Miles Davis (Bix, People’s, Shades of Chet, Play Miles Davis).
Also of note are his recordings Rava, L"Opera Virginia" and Carmen. His own interpretations of operatic arias and overtures.
In 2001, he founded a new quintet with pianist Stefano Bollani, and toured with Gato Barbieri and Aldo Romano.
In the trio Europeans he is working with German bass-player Eberhard Weber and Swiss percussionist Reto Weber.