Cervini’s Turboprop is Full of Abundance

Abundance Covert Art

ABUNDANCE / DAVIDSON: The Queen. DAMERON: Tadd’s Delight. ARLEN: My Shining Hour. CHAPLIN: Smile. LOOMIS: Abundance Overture. FARRUGIA: The Ten Thousand Things. CERVINI: Gramps. Song for Cito / Turboprop: William Carn, tb; Tara Davidson, a-sax/fl/s-sax; Joel Frahm, t-sax; Adrean Farrugia, pno; Dan Loomis, bs; Ernesto Cervini, dm / Anzic Records ANZ-0063

Ernesto Cervini is a Canadian jazz drummer and leader of his own band, Turboprop, in addition to acting as a promoter of other Canadian jazz artists through Orange Grove Publicity. He is, in addition, a nice man and a musicians with “open ears,” as they say, since he promotes a wide range of jazz styles (some of which, and he knows this, I don’t care for), but within his own band there’s a big but imaginary sign hanging up that says, “True Jazz Spoken Here.”

His newest album, due for release on October 5, is a typical example of the high artistic standards he sets for himself and his musicians. The opener, written by the band’s reed player Tara Davidson, is a wild piece in asymmetric rhythm, with Cervini’s drums churning in the background as the horns play the opening theme statement before moving quickly into a brilliant piano solo by Adrean Farrugia, followed by the composer herself on alto sax. This band not only swings, they’re highly creative soloists who feed into each other with aplomb. Cervini’s own solo is exciting and equally inventive, using cross-rhythms with apparent ease.

I was delighted to see a composition here by Tadd Dameron, the brilliant but self-destructive jazz composer-arranger from the late 1940s/early ‘50s. The original version was by bop legend Theodore “Fats” Navarro in 1949, issued under the title Sid’s Delight (as a tribute to legendary jazz club announcer and DJ “Symphony Sid” Torin). This one really jumps, with tight, excellent solos all round. Two other “old-timers” make an appearance next: Harold Arlen, next to Johnny Mercer the jazziest of jazz-influenced pop tune writers, and Charles Chaplin, who didn’t have a jazz bone in his body. Turboprop predictably makes a nice soufflé of Arlen’s My Shining Hour, with imaginative rhythmic displacements, embellishments on the original theme, unusual harmonic shifts and quick little solos by Davidson on soprano sax, Carn, Frahm and Farrugia, while Cervini pounds the percussion happily in the background. Chaplin’s Smile (a theme for the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s annual telethons for decades) is played lyrically by Carn on trombone while the reeds provide nice little fills behind him. Carn then gets the bulk of the solo space, doubling the tempo and expanding on Chaplin’s theme.

Dan Loomis’ whimsical Abundance Overture begins with Cervini playing a sort of tap dance on the rims of his snare drum, with the flute, saxophone and trombone entering in a sort of Irish jig tempo. Loomis’ bass then “toughens up” the rhythm with some tight jazz playing in tandem with the leader, and Farrugia’s piano leads us into solo-land. A bit of handclapping backs up a two-part fugue played by the alto and tenor saxes before leading back into the ensemble. What a nifty arrangement!

Although written by pianist Farrugia, The Ten Thousand Things is centered around the bass, which plays the opening chorus and remains a strong presence under the reeds when they perform the theme. When Farrugia does enter, it is after a pause, and the tempo drops down to a slow ballad while he plays a sort of fantasia. The tempo eventually picks back up again and  the whole band plays interesting scored figures, with Frahm on tenor coming out of the ensemble for an excellent solo. A free-form, wild jam ends it. Cervini’s Gramps, a ballad, opens with some soft brush work by the leader, with the two reeds and arco bass playing the simple theme. Eventually a sort of canon is set up between the tenor sax and trombone behind Davidson on alto. The finale, Song for Cito, is a relaxed 6/8 sort of piece backed by the leader’s enthusiastic drums. Pianist Farrugia is the solo star of this one, however, and he connects the musical material very well. A sort of quick “ta-da!” tag ending closes the piece, and the CD.

This is another fine outing for this talented band, and I highly recommend it to your attention.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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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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