Toronto-born-and-based drummer and composer Ernesto Cervini isn’t one to stay married to any single style or ensemble formation. After nearly a decade of trio projects, he recently formed a quartet under his leadership, featuring saxophonist Joel Frahm. Now comes Turboprop, a sextet that includes a second woodwind and trombone, which grants the leader a wealth of new orchestral options.
Guided by Cervini’s driving, effervescent rhythms, the group’s eponymous debut album jaunts into the realms of chamber jazz, balladry, hard bop and free jazz. Regardless of the stylistic focus, the results are always alluring and rendered alternately with polish and precision or daring excitement.
The date’s most intriguing performance is an elegant reading of Claude Debussy’s “The Engulfed Cathedral,” a serene and evocative masterpiece of the early 20th-century Impressionism movement. Cervini’s arrangement begins with his mallets building a crisp cymbal roll. The three horns enter, stating the composition’s signature ascending melody line. Trombonist William Carn solos, extending the classical mood via silky legato phrases while gently probing and expanding Debussy’s theme. Tara Davidson’s alto sax follows, broadening the form with a more aggressive attack. The piece builds to an animated crescendo behind Frahm’s tenor and an eruption of rhythm-section accents. The interpretation is hauntingly memorable.
Cervini emphasizes melody and thick horn-section harmonies on several ballads, including “Cheer Up Charlie” from the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Elsewhere, different rhythmic schemes and styles are explored. The leader’s “Bindi Bop” has a Cool School feel that summons a cerebral Gerry Mulligan-inspired vibe. An up-tempo rendering of Keith Jarrett’s “The Windup” features tight horn unisons and a pairing of peppy, contrasting lines by Frahm and pianist Adrean Farrugia. Cervini’s creative cymbal work and crisply articulated rhythms keep Turboprop cruising along smoothly at any altitude. —Mark Holston