VERA / DONNELLY: Pluie Lyonnaise. Ward Lock. Meme Art. CERVINI: Tamboa. DNA. Couch Tard. FORTIN: Diamond. Fortress. Total. STRAVINSKY: Piano-Rag-Music / Myriad3: Chris Donnelly, kbds; Dan Fortin, bs; Ernesto Cervini, dm/perc/cl/bs-cl/fl/a-sax/glockenspiel / Alma Records 13990
Here’s something very different from Canadian drummer-bandleader-promoter Ernesto Cervini, whose group Turboprop recently released an outstanding album to which I gave a rave review. Myriad3, which is a collective of these three musicians and not specifically Cervini’s group as leader, is more mellow without being sentimental or vapid, playing a sort of very understated jazz-rock with an emphasis on the former though with undertones of the latter. And the tunes played here are all rather different, Pluie Lyonnaise having a sort of soft-rock feel to it while Tamboa explores a sort of corrugated rhythm, understated but insistent, like a ground bass in classical composition.
Moreover, this unusual feeling is consistent throughout the album, regardless of the composer of each piece. It almost has (pardon the reference, it’s not meant to be demeaning) a “percolating” quality about it, like those coffee ads you used to see and hear on TV and radio. Very unusual.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that each of these three musicians are very talented pros with years of experience, or that they all have what jazz fans refer to as “big ears.” There are so many subtle little touches throughout the album, like Cervini’s complex backbeats on Ward Lock, that really have to be heard to be fully appreciated and understood. Mere words are deficient to convey all that is going on here. The music is primarily subtle, painted in pastels rather than primary colors, yet it glitters at times with its own inward sort of light.
My regular readers know me well enough to realize that I am normally an enemy of “soft jazz,” “lounge jazz” and anything that resembles it, thus you must take my word for it that Vera is a deceptively complex album that must be heard to be believed or understood. It speaks to the heart as well as the mind, which by itself differentiates this music from the usual soft-lounge pap that apparently sells to young jazz listeners. Yet such listeners will undoubtedly respond to this CD without knowing, intellectually, why. It’s that kind of music.
I was particularly interested to hear their arrangement of Stravinsky’s Piano-Rag-Music (1919), one of the seminal crossover pieces (after the early ones by Debussy and Satie), as noted in my online book, From Baroque to Bop and Beyond. Myriad3 break up the original rhythm, redistribute it, and essentially re-writes the piece while remaining true to its spirit. This is extraordinary music-making by any standard. And there’s a certain sort of heartbeat pulse in Fortress that is extremely calming despite the complex rhythms being presented over it, whereas DNA starts with a slow, asymmetric, stuttering rhythm that entices as it baffles, taking on an almost Monk-like quality.
From start to finish, Vera is the kind of album that will both fascinate you and touch your calm center. It may be hard to describe, but it’s wonderful to listen to.
—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley
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