Cervini’s Turboprop “Revs” Up the Heat

Turboprop - REV - Cover Art

REV / FARRUGIA: The Libertine. CERVINI: Granada Bus. Rev. B. SMITH: No Rain. RADIOHEAD: The Daily Mail. JOHNSTON: Pennies From Heaven. LOOMIS: Ranthem. CARN: Arc of Instability / Tara Davidson, a-sax/s-sax; Joel Frahm, t-sax; William Carn, tb; Adrean Farrugia, pn; Dan Loomis, bs; Ernesto Cervini, dm / Anzic Records ANZ-0059

This CD, titled Rev, is the second by drummer Ernesto Cervini’s little band Turboprop, which will be released on October 27 of this year. Cervini makes it clear that “although I am the band-leader, Turboprop truly feels like a collective due to the passion, commitment and love everybody brings to each performance.”

Ernesto Cervini

Ernesto Cervini

The opening piece, Adrean Farrugia’s The Libertine, is a case in point. It’s a wonderful post-bop kind of piece, with a loosely-structured tune around which all ensembles and improvs are based, and I was struck by how rich the sound was from the combination of only three horns (alto sax, tenor sax and trombone). Farrugia is, appropriately, the first up in the solo department, feeding single-note lines from the right hand with intermittent chording from the left as Cervini ramps up the excitement behind him on drums. Despite the group feel that he encourages, there is no question that this is the drummer’s band, just as Gene Krupa’s and Buddy Rich’s were theirs. Without his participation and guidance, the band would lack a considerable amount of voltage. Frahm enters next, playing an excitable tenor solo with occasional squeals in the top range, pursuing a vibratoless sound à la Coltrane. An ensemble built around ling-held notes then ensues with Farrugia playing florid fills on the keyboard and Cervini keeping up the energy in the background.

Tara Davidson

Tara Davidson

The drummer’s own piece, Granada Bus, comes next. It is built around a sort of 6/8 beat played by the bass that is overlaid on the straight 4 of the rest of the band. I was struck by the unusual quality of the melodic line which, appropriately, sounds Latin. Davidson’s soprano sax solo is outstanding as she manages to tie her note-choices in to the written melody while still taking liberties that rewrite it. Farrugia is more adventurous, pushing the envelope while maintaining elements of the tune within his solo. There’s a marvelous passage later on where the soprano sax, piano, and bass all move together in unison rhythmic lines while Cervini happily bashes his drums in the background.

William Carn

William Carn

By contrast, Brad Smith’s No Rain is more relaxed and gentle in the opening chorus, though it, too, eventually becomes more excitable. The peculiarly loping rhythm brings out some fine playing from the soloists, particularly William Carn on trombone. His tone quality is exceptional; every note is hit dead-center with a richness of sound not normally heard from many jazz trombonists, even some of the most famous. Tara Davidson then takes off in a particularly wild and adventurous soprano solo.

The title tune, Rev, is a wild jazz fugue composed by Cervini that takes off like a rocket, propelling the band through some exciting changes. Cervini eventually enters the fray, taking over with a powerful drum solo. Sadly, this one is over way too soon!

The Daily Mail is a piece by the British rock band Radiohead. I wish I could say that I know the music and/or the band, but as my readers know, rock is not my thing. Nonetheless, I was impressed by the fact that the sextet kept the volume level low and did not emphasize a heavy rock beat, two things I really appreciate. Dan Loomis’ bass dominates the introduction, followed by Frahm’s tenor supported by Farrugia’s piano. A quick change of key and both the volume and voltage are ramped up a bit, with Carn playing some nice growl trombone behind the two saxists. Each of the three horns pursue their own lines for a chorus, almost simulating the old jazz style polyphony in a modern context.

The old standard Pennies From Heaven is given an almost tongue-in-cheek beat by Loomis’ bass in the intro, with Frahm playing the lead while Davidson and Carn fill in with some chording. This is followed by a particularly ingenious ensemble chorus for the three horns, a group improv written out that I felt was absolutely brilliant. When Frahm returns for his improvisation, mostly at double tempo, the rhythm section loosens up considerably, and I was delighted to hear Cervini tone down his normal enthusiasm and play some nicely swinging drums behind the band. Carn’s trombone solo shows some Jimmy Knepper influence here. Cervini’s hip cymbal work backs up Loomis’ solo, which features a great many triplets in rhythm. Yet another inventive ensemble, this one closer to the original melody, acts as the ride-out.

Loomis contributed Ranthem, which begins quietly despite the busy and complex melody line, which comes and goes surprisingly quickly. Much of the opening section of this track is occupied by piano, bass and drums, followed by another quick ensemble passage and a Carn solo with the time now shifting to a more uptempo, streamlined 4. Farrugia’s solo here is more occupied with rhythmic than harmonic changes, breaking down and rearranging the beats within measures to suit his lights.

We close out with Carn’s own Arc of Instability, a medium-tempo, thoughtful piece that creates a unique mood. The uniquely churning rhythm, set up by bass and drums, acts as an underpinning to the cycle of soloists, who do their best to flesh out this somewhat bare-bones tune. Special mention goes to Frahm’s tenor solo, which turns up the temperature for a while, but everyone has something interesting to say here. A surprisingly exciting ride-out wraps things up.

Rev is an absolutely terrific album. I can’t say enough about it, whether of individual tracks, solos, or the overall vibe of the disc. Just get it!

—© 2017 Lynn René Bayley

Follow me on Twitter! @Artmusiclounge

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Read my book, From Baroque to Bop and Beyond: An extended and detailed guide to the intersection of classical music and jazz


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