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Reviewers: Glyn Pursglove, Jonathan Woolf

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Ernesto Cervini’s Turboprop

Abundance

ANZIC RECORDS ANZ-0063 [43:12]

 

 

 

The Queen (Davidson)

Tadd’s Delight (Dameron)

My Shining Hour (H.Arlen)

Smile (C. Chaplin)

Abundance Overture (Loomis)

The Ten Thousand Things (Farrugia)

Gramps (Cervini)

Song for Cito (Cervini)

Tara Davidson (alto & soprano saxophones, flute), Joel Frahm (tenor saxophone),

William Carn (trombone), Adrean Farrugia (piano), Dan Loomis (bass),

Ernesto Cervini (drums)

All tracks recorded in Toronto [tracks 4 & 5 at The Drive Shed, November 5-6, 2013,

Remaining tracks at Revolution Studio, December 12-13, 2016]

This is an outstanding album, grounded in the language of hard bop but not confined by it. Turboprop is a sextet made up of musicians of genuine individuality (and, I suspect, of varied musical temperaments), but there is absolutely no sense of competing egos; rather a sense of a community of voices enjoying working together. The programme (see above) is made up of three ‘standards’ and five originals by members of the band.

The CD’s title, Abundance, is open to several interpretations – suggesting, as it does, both the ‘large’, rich sound which Turboprop creates, and a response to the world, musical and otherwise, which recognizes its ‘abundance’. In his brief notes, Cervini tells us that he is “grateful” to his “family, [his] incredible bandmates”, [his] teachers and mentors, “the country of Canada” [and the] “abundance of good that there is in the world”. It takes a strongly optimistic spirit to affirm the “abundance of good” in the world just at present, but the affirmation here, in these words and this music, is far from being merely naïve.

Cervini’s work at the drums is, throughout the album, top-class; he ‘leads’ the band without ever seeming to dominate or coerce it, and he produces subtle percussive textures and patterns which are both of interest in themselves and vital contributions to the ensemble.

Turboprop’s front line – made up of saxophonist and flautist Tara Davidson (I am pretty sure this was the first time I have encountered her work, and I was very favourably impressed), tenorist Joel Frahm and trombonist William Carn – plays strikingly well together (only very occasionally does one miss a trumpet lead), as well as producing solos which are always interesting and often intriguing. The stand-out track, for me, is ‘Ten Thousand Things’ (there’s ‘abundance’ indeed!) written by pianist Adrean Farrugia. Bassist Dan Loomis starts things off resonantly and slowly, before being joined by Cervini, and then Farrugia, as the piece gathers pace and the horns enter – with some fine work by Davidson at the top of the ensemble; Farrugia takes an impressive solo which, again, starts relatively slowly and thoughtfully, before it bubbles up into something much more hard-driving and energetic, with Cervini encouraging things onward and the horns returning. Joel Frahm emerges with a forthright solo which affirms a kind of emotional and inventive ‘abundance’, while the other horns provide a colourful backdrop. The work of the rhythm section of Farrugia-Loomis-Cervini is excellent here – as, indeed, it is throughout the album. ‘Ten Thousand Things’ has the variety (abundance?) of tempi, tones and rhythms to make it sound like a mini-suite, rather than just a ‘song’ (in the I-tunes usage of that word).

Cervini’s ‘Gramps’ is a beautiful piece, never over-sentimental but full of warm sentiment, attractively reflective, but also articulating some quiet ‘joy’.

This is a group full of accomplished and inventive musicians, in whose work technique and imagination complement one another perfectly. The opening track, Tara Davidson’s ‘The Queen’ is not a simple piece, but all the members of Turboprop take it in their stride with assurance and certainty, and also display a good deal of pleasing invention in their solo contributions – most notably Farrugia and Davidson herself.

Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Smile’ gets a gently touching reading, featuring some charming work by trombonist William Carn, subtly supported by the rest of the group; it made me try (largely unsuccessfully) to recall the lyrics of the song. I was forced to look them up. They turn out to be by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons (both were English and each has a brief Wikipedia entry). Their lyrics end thus: “You’ll find that life is still worthwhile / If you just / Smile”. That message, (which is not so banal as it might appear at first sight) seems to underlie more than a little of the music-making on Abundance, which certainly made me ‘smile’ as I listened to it.

It would be tedious (for the reader, at any rate) to continue enumerating the virtues of individual tracks or musicians. Though there are plenty of good solos to be heard here, Abundance is essentially the product of a fine, mutually stimulating, band. This album has pleased me time and again, each time I have listened to it (which must be ten or twelve times by now) and I recommend it unreservedly. If you are unfamiliar with these musicians – of the sextet four (Davidson, Carn, Farrugia and Cervini) are based in Toronto and two (Frahm and Loomis) work in New York – try to hear their versions of ‘Tadd’s Delight’ and ‘My Shining Light’ (which has a Latin tinge in an arrangement by Geoff Keezer and Ernesto Cervini). The certainty of taste and unforced invention which are evident on these standards will surely make you want to hear what Turboprop does in the rest of the programme.

Glyn Pursglove

 


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