Sunday, February 15, 2015

Canadian sextet wows the listener with the smooth flight of 'Turboprop'

It's not your average sextet that can find something fresh to say about both Claude Debussy's "Cathedrale engloutie" and Charlie Parker's "Red Cross" without violating the spirit of either original.

Ernesto Cervini is a drummer-composer of merit.
That achievement is part of the appeal of "Turboprop" (Anzic Records), a new CD release by drummer-composer Ernesto Cervini. Among the 10 tunes, two others are by other composers — the movie song "Cheer Up, Charlie" (from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and Keith Jarrett's "Windup." Both sit comfortably among the six Cervini pieces, with "The Windup" making for an exhilarating finale.

The Canada-based ensemble's effervescence never gets bedraggled. The coordination is superb, and the instrumental blend holds firm. From the outset of Cervini's "Unnecessary Mountain," an urgent but understated drum pattern sets the tone for the whole track — and, it turns out, for the disc as well. Picking up "Turboprop"'s aeronautical theme, "Fear of Flying" introduces a slightly menacing ostinato to cast a spinetingling shadow over this drum feature.

Cervini's colleagues make the most of several showcases. In addition to Adrean Farrugia's flavorful piano solo in "Red Cross," there's Joel Frahm's high-profile tenor-sax outcry in "De Molen." That piece incidentally puts together several independent lines so exuberantly that simultaneous improvisation is suggested, though the freewheeling counterpoint may well be within the arrangement.

Tara Davidson's long-breathed alto saxophone gives a necessary lift to "Unnecessary Mountain." Trombonist William Carn leads the way tenderly in "Cheer Up, Charlie." The group's reliable bass line is maintained by Dan Loomis.

I found only "Three Angels," perhaps weighed down by its dedication to the memory of the leader's three nieces, to be a little limp in purely musical inspiration. The other original ballad, "Marion Theresa," also dedicated to a relative, is built upon delectable harmonies, threaded throughout upon Cervini's masterly brushwork.