Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Give The Drummer Some (November '17 Edition)

Drummer, composer, and arranger Ernesto Cervini is quite a busy human. He leads or co-leads eight groups (!), is a publicist for a growing number of Canadian musicians, and is a member of several other ensembles.  His sextet, Ernesto Cervini's Turboprop, has just issued its second album - titled "Rev" (Anzic Records), the ensemble features the mighty rhythm section of Cervini, Adrian Farrugia (piano), and bassist Dan Loomis plus the front line of Joel Frahm (tenor saxophone), Tara Davidson (alto and soprano saxes), and William Carn (trombone). The majority of the program was recorded after the ensemble had finished a tour of Western Canada. The joy and camaraderie that the sextet exudes is obvious from the start and, honestly, the music they create is irresistible.

Farrugia contributes the opening track, "The Libertine": from the solo drums lead-in, the band builds off the sinewy bass and piano lines, playing a handsome melody.  The pianist dances over the active rhythm section. There's an appealing urgency as the music rushes forward. Frahm roars out of the piano solo, pushed by and pushing back against the tumultuous rhythms.

That spirited interplay continues on Cervini's original "Granada Bus."  Again, the bass and drums add the jet fuel to the music while the dance melody opens up for delight-filled solos from Ms. Davidson (soprano), Farrugia, and Frahm.  The title track (also a Cervini composition) is also a fiery exchange between the horns and drums with the alto, tenor, and 'bone "riffing" away while the drummer thunders beneath them.

There are three eclectic "covers" in the program.  "No Rain", a tune by Blind Melon that captivated the leader as a youth, maintains the sprightly melody while getting a powerful rhythmic undercoating.  Carn's dancing solo is a highlight (pay attention to splendid counterpoint created by Loomis) as is the lovely and powerful soprano sax statement.  "The Daily Mail", written, recorded, and released by Radiohead in 2011, is a handsome ballad that opens with a strong melodic bass solo over the simple piano chords before Frahm enters with the melody. When the tenor, soprano, and trombone take off for the combined solo, the songs takes on a gospel feel. The sextet does not overthink the piece but really the capture the power and mystery of the original.  The third standard is "Pennies From Heaven" and the band swings the heck out of the piece.  Frahm plays the theme then joins for the alto and trombone for a delightful romp.  Later on, Loomis steps out in front for a fine melodic solo before the song swings its way out.

The music and the performances invite you into "Rev", keeping your attention throughout and making you want to return again and again.  Sure would be great to see and hear this band live in the U.S. but the upcoming dates are all in Canada.  In the meantime, jump aboard Ernesto Cervini's Turboprop and enjoy the ride!

For more information, go to www.ernestocervini.com.

Here's the delightful "Granada Bus":

Dylan Jack is a drummer and composer from Massachusetts who has played in a number of rock and fusion bands.  Thanks to a gig that fellow student (bassist Anthony Leva) at Bard College's Longy School of Music in Boston had booked, Jack met and played alongside guitarist Eric Hofbauer and clarinetist Todd Brunel.  The drummer than asked the trio to play for his graduate recital: soon, the band had gelled playing his original material, played more clubs and concert halls, and Hofbauer invited Jack to join his Creative Nation Music label.  The results of a late February 2017 day in the studio is the drummer's debut as a leader.

"Diagrams" is credited to the Dylan Jack Quartet and the music is really a collective affair.  You can hear in the first seconds of the opening track "Are You Made of Coins" how the rhythm and melody are connected.  The high-spirited theme, played by bass clarinet and guitar, has its roots in bop and funk but it's such fun to hear how Jack and Leva change the feel during Brunel's solo (sounds like a touch of bossa nova).  When the guitarist steps out, the three plays a funky riff as Hofbauer digs in with a blend of single-note runs and chordal lines.  The exuberant drum solo during which Jack keeps circling back to the melody really stands out.

The listener might not be able to tell listening to the gentle yet firm feel of the melody that the title of the next track, "Sentenced", was influenced by the trial of the Boston Marathon bomber. After the theme section, Hofbauer steps out over sweet brush work and a genial walking bass line.  The feel changes during Brunel's powerful soprano sax solo with much more energy from the rhythm section - note the interaction between the soloist, drums, and guitar. Leva solos over the impressionistic guitar. The piece has now slowed down and is more reflective before the the guitar, bass, and soprano reintroduce the melody. They drop out, Jack takes over for an intense solo with his brushes - it makes the listener lean in. He switches to sticks yet never overpowers the song, again referring to the melody which invites the band back in for the close.

"Ghost Pal", the longest track (13:58), opens in free time, with much dynamic variation and shifting focus, before the melody is introduced at 3:50. The piece teeters between being a ballad and short, spiky rapid-fire riffs, before Brunel steps out for a powerful clarinet solo. As he quiets down to an eerie moan, Hofbauer steps out. His electrified acoustic sound is quite melodic and percussive: in contrast, Leva plays a bowed bass solo.  Jack's skittering brush work takes center stage as with more clarinet moans, rapid-fire yet quiet guitar riffs, and the occasional bass interjection.  Soon, the band reenters, the "ghost" story continues, with a return to the melody line taking the piece out.

"Diagrams" asks a lot of the listener, as the music shifts and darts, changing direction with glee. Yet, one is rewarded time and again by hearing how this quartet works and plays together, really listening and responding to each other, not just "blowing" over the changes.  The Dylan Jack Quartet creates music worth exploring; let go of your expectations and enjoy this sonic journey.

For more information, go to dylanjackmusic.com.

Here's a track for you to dig into:

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