Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Drummer Expands His Band + Young Lady With Bass

Drummer, composer, arranger, and publicist Ernesto Cervini leads one of the more exciting quartets on the music. His last 2 CDs, "Little Black Bird" (2010) and "There" (2011 - both available through Anzic Records) feature great work from pianist Adrean Farrugia, bassists Jon Maharaj (the former) and Dan Loomis (the latter) and saxophonist Joel Frahm.

For his new Anzic release "Turboprop", Cervini has added the distinctive voices of Tara Davidson (alto and soprano saxophones) and William Carn (trombone) but has not traded in his sense of musical adventure for a larger sound. One thing that stands out on all of his recordings is the sense of fun the musicians are having.  This program includes "Cheer Up Charlie", the Leslie Bricusse - Anthony Newley tune from "Charlie and The Chocolate Factory" as well as "Red Cross", Charlie Parker's high-stepping piece from 1944 (first recorded with guitarist Tiny Grimes.)  The former is a sweet ballad that really works well with the 2-reeds/1 trombone front line; each player shares the melody and take a short solo (Ms. Davidson on alto).  The Parker burns brightly from the get-go, Corvine laying put the beat while the alto and tenor saxes plus the trombone share the "give-and-take" intro and then the melody.

The program includes 5 originals contributed by the leader.  The impressionistic opening track "Unnecessary Mountain" (named for a real peak near Vancouver, British Columbia) introduces the band, with the melody shared by the saxes (soprano and tenor) and horn while the rhythm section builds the tension and intensity to a boiling point during Frahm's fiery solo. "Fear of Flying" slips in on a slinky rhythm and well developed melody (a touch of Monk and a dollop of Hancock). Frahm takes the first solo, taking a jaunty ride over the rhythm section.  Farrugia solos next and, if you have never heard this young man play, he is a splendid soloist, forceful yet whimsical at times.  Cervini takes the next solo; it's short but powerful with a touch of humor. "Three Angels" is a very personal piece. Opening on Frahm's solo tenor lines, it slowly progresses first adding the rhythm section then the Davidson's alto and Carn's trombone. The harmonies are striking, the solos powerful (including a strong turn from Loomis) and, although the piece lasts over 12 minutes, the music always moves forward.  "Bindi Bop" swings agreeably with Cervini's active brush as the only rhythm instrument while Carn, Ms. Davidson and Frahm weave in and around each other. The drummer's other composition is the lovely ballad "Marion Theresa" (dedicated to his grandmother) - at times, it feels like a Gil Evans composition and arrangement, especially in the minor chords and voicings for the reeds and brass.

The remaining tracks include Cervini's stunning arrangement of Claude Debussy's "The Engulfed Cathedral" during which the music feels suspended in time as the trombone slowly intones the melody over a simple bass line and tolling piano chords.  Frahm's "De Molen" is a piece and it burns with great intensity - listen to Farrugia's frolicking chords beneath the forceful tenor solo and hear how he takes off on his solo.  The CD closes on Keith Jarrett's "The Windup" (first recorded with his European Quartet in 1974) and is one of the pianist's most playful and funky pieces (Ornette Coleman meets Phineas Newborn Jr.).  Frahm and Farrugia combine for a great interactive dialogue before the band takes the tune out on a rollicking high.

"Turboprop" is great modern music, played with fire, integrity, passion and a sense of playfulness missing from 99% of recorded music. The ballads are emotionally strong, the interactions speak to 6 musicians digging deeply into the material and themselves to give their all.  Ernesto Cervini continues to mature as a composer and arranger (plus he is a powerful and sensitive drummer). One hopes this sextet makes it down to the Lower 48 from its Canadian base. In the meantime, this super CD will give you wings.  For more information, go to

Give a listen to "Red Cross" and enjoy!

Bassist-vocalist Katie Thiroux has just issued her debut CD "Introducing Katie Thiroux".  As I write this, the Los Angeles, CA-area native is on a 3-date tour of the Northeast with the fine band that plays on the recording, including guitarist Graham Dechter, drummer Matt Witek and tenor saxophone Roger Neumann. They'll finish the short jaunt on Friday February 6 at The Side Door Jazz Club (click on the name to get more details.)

Ms. Thiroux is no stranger to the East Coast as she matriculated at The Berklee School of Music in Boston, MA.  Since returning to the West Coast, she's worked and played with pianists Larry Fuller, Geri Allen, and Bill Cunliffe as well as trumpeter Terrell Stafford, saxophonist Jeff Clayton, guitarist Mundell Lowe plus drummers Lewis Nash and Jeff Hamilton (who produced the CD). She also played and studied with vocalist Tierney Sutton.

She's a first-class musician.  Bacharach-David's "Wives and Lovers", a hit for Jack Jones in the early 1960s, is just voice and bass yet the song swings with ease and grace.  The bass is recorded with great presence throughout. Listen to how she leads the guitarist and drummer into "There's a Small Hotel" and pushes the tempo on her original  "Ray's Kicks" (dedicated to the late Ray Brown, a big influence on her playing.) She's displays solid blues "chops" on that cut as well as on Frank Foster's "Shiny Stockings" (a track that features great contributions from Dechter and Neumann).  Witek's classy brush work supports Ms. Thiroux's fine vocal on the opening chorus of "I'm Old Fashioned" then he takes a splendid "soft shoe" solo.  Dechter follows with a fine solo, filled with sweet single-note runs and percussive chords.  One can clearly hear the influence of Ella Fitzgerald on Ms. Thiroux's vocal approach on this track (and on several others).

The bassist contributes 3 originals. Besides the afore-mentioned "Ray's Kicks", there's the up-tempo shuffle "Rosebird", a vehicle for Neumann's robust tenor playing and Dechter's rippling phrases. "Can't We Just Pretend" is a soft blues-soaked ballad with the tenor player sounding like Ben Webster in his prime.

The CD closes with a bass tour-de-force, an unaccompanied reading of "Oh What a Beautiful Morning", that shows Ms.. Thiroux's inventiveness and playful side.  She doesn't go overboard with technique yet she is certainly "strutting her stuff."

"Introducing Katie Thiroux" does its job admirably.  The music has a "conservative" side with the majority of the material composed long before the bassist was born.  Yet, neither she nor her bandmates treat this music as museum pieces.  The enjoyment they get from playing together is infectious and this music is quite alive.  For more information, go to

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