Ernesto Cervini's TurboprobA Canadian SongbookTPR

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Celebrating Cervini’s love of Canadian music with wildly imaginative readings of songs by The
Barenaked Ladies,Our Lady Peace, Allison Au, James Hill, William Carn and Ernesto Cervini

Tara Davidson, alto sax
Joel Frahm, tenor sax
William Carn, trombone
Adrean Farrugia, piano
Dan Loomis, bass
Ernesto Cervini, drums

Release Date: March 8th, 2024 on TPR Records

Following up his ambitious JUNO Award-nominated 2022 album Joy (“a compositional tour-de-force, with strong melodies scored for diverse instrumentations” — Ted Panken, DownBeat), Toronto drummer and composer Ernesto Cervini is proud to announce the release of A Canadian Songbook, a vivid, fiery, insightful exploration of music composed by Canadians. This outing finds Cervini returning to the helm of his accomplished and long-running sextet Turboprop, with a thick, contrapuntal three-horn sound that’s been developing over the course of three previous albums: Abundance (2018), Rev (2017) and Turboprop (2015). Turboprop’s personnel also played an important role on Joy, along with a cast of singers and members of Cervini’s other projects, notably Tetrahedron and TuneTown.

On A Canadian Songbook it’s Turboprop all the way, soaring on a couple of impressive Cervini originals and arrangements of the pop/rock numbers “When I Fall” by The Barenaked Ladies and “Clumsy” by Toronto’s own Our Lady Peace. Brilliant tunes by Cervini’s contemporaries and friends, Allison Au (“Aureole”), James Hill (“Skeletons”) and Turboprop trombonist William Carn (“The Inertia of Complacency”) round out the program. “The two pop songs on the record I’ve been listening to since they were released, when I was a teenager,” Cervini says. “Allison’s and James’ songs I fell in love with while working publicity for their albums,” he adds, alluding to his role as founding director of Orange Grove Publicity.

With two saxes (Tara Davidson, Joel Frahm) and Carn’s trombone offering harmonic richness, limitless versatility and off-the-charts improvisational prowess, Cervini can tell the story of what these songs inspire in him, aided by the eloquent, formidable rhythm section partners Dan Loomis (bass) and Adrean Farrugia (piano). “I’m happy to present my reflection on the Canadian music scene and the wonderful composers within it,” writes Cervini in the liner notes. “I’ve always been very proud of my Canadian heritage. I love how supportive this country is of artists, and I think that support is reflected in the success
Canadian artists have on a global scale.”

Speaking of global scale, Cervini and Loomis have been busy touring internationally as the rhythm section of the Joel Frahm Trio, heard on the blazing 2021 Anzic Records release The Bright Side. There’s a deep-seated collective intuition among the three, an energy that transfers naturally to the fuller ensemble. And the tunes themselves reflect a cross-section of all the band members’ tastes as players and listeners.

[Pianist] James Hill’s “Skeletons” leads off with jittering rhythms and rubato passages, leading to inspired trading between Frahm, Davidson and Carn over Cervini’s rocking, in-the-pocket drum feel. Farrugia thoroughly dissects the tune’s lilting chord progression in a brilliant solo turn. [Altoist] Allison Au’s “Aureole” has a Jazz Messengers-ish quality in its minor-key modernism and brightly burning tempo, prompting risk-taking solos from Davidson and the devastatingly swinging Frahm in turn. “The Inertia of Complacency,” by Carn, finishes the set in a dramatic suite-like frame of mind, with gripping contrasts and transitions and some of the most effective three-horn writing of the set.

Cervini’s “If, Then” reveals the intricate big-band sonority he can conjure with Turboprop’s
instrumentation. Farrugia is in top form in a bright 5/4, setting Frahm up for more devastation. Cervini’s stop-time drum feature is climactic, tightly executed, full of fire. His “Stuck Inside” veers surprisingly from a complex horn introduction to a much slower, relaxed, elegant old-school feel reminiscent of ’50s Basie. Carn’s trombone solo is spot-on, full of bluesy expression; the three-horn soli chorus carries echoes of Thad & Mel, Oliver Nelson and Benny Carter; the Loomis bass solo wraps it all up beautifully.

“When I Fall” is one of The Barenaked Ladies’ acoustic numbers, done here as a slow shuffle with gorgeous playing once again from Carn—very sparse from the top, just trombone, bass and drums for a good while. Loomis has a fine solo here as well. “Clumsy” is a 1997 rocker by Our Lady Peace (OLP), a Canadian post-grunge phenom that’s still at it. Turboprop’s version is contemplative at first, though Cervini sneaks in a highly angular, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it written figure for the horns just before the first main melody. “I love to arrange and perform these wonderful songs that I’ve been listening to for all of these years,” Cervini remarks, “but I don’t just want to recreate them…it’s nice to be able to put my own stamp on these great tunes!”

Hailed by the Vancouver Sun as “one of Canada’s premier drummer-composer-bandleaders,” Ernesto Cervini is a complete, well-rounded musician, having earned degrees from the Royal Conservatory of Music in classical piano and clarinet performance before he decided to focus his energies behind the drum kit. He has a master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music, a deep network of connections with
the highest-echelon musicians, and a performance track record on some of the world’s hippest, most prestigious stages. Returning to Toronto in 2007 after his four years in New York, he has cemented his status as one of the leading champions of the city’s local scene and Canadian musicians more broadly.