As has become our tradition here at Team GDW, the US Thanksgiving weekend is a perfect excuse to skip the turkey dinner and head to our northern neighbors instead, for some treats of the ‘live music’ kind. Over the last few years, this long weekend had always been meticulously planned in advance, leaving nothing to chance, tickets in hand to the shows that caught our eyes. Yet with less than a week to go this time around, we only had concrete plans for the Saturday night. Friday night was determined about three days prior to the trip, and as for Thursday, this was officially decided about 24 hours before show time.
All it took was a tweet from jazz musician Ernesto Cervini to inform us that he and his band, Turboprop, were performing over two consecutive nights at The Rex jazz and blues bar in downtown Toronto. We recently chatted with Ernesto on our Gossip Talkin’ Blues podcast about his latest album, so it quickly became clear that fate lent more than a helping hand in bringing Team GDW and Turboprop together at last. And with an easy drive from south central PA to the hustle and bustle of Toronto, we arrived at The Rex with plenty of time to enjoy a bite and beverage before the show.
Performing for their second consecutive evening at The Rex, Ernesto Cervini’s Turboprop made their way onto the stage and were raring to share their unique brand of jazz. Seated behind his drum kit, Cervini was joined by regular bandmates Adrean Farrugia (piano), Joel Frahm (tenor saxophone) and Tara Davidson (alto & soprano saxophone). And in the absence of both trombonist William Carn and bassist Dan Loomis, rounding out the ensemble on this given night were guests Christian Overton (trombone) and Michael Herring (bass) respectively. With two full sets of music at their disposal, Turboprop would share material from all three of their studio albums to date.
Cervini opted to defy convention, however, leading off the show with a standard not found on any of their original recordings, a cover of Ornette Coleman’s “Rejoicing.” Followed immediately by their popular jazz interpretation of Blind Melon’s indie rock classic “No Rain,” the musical talents of this sextet quickly earned the full attention of those in the room. Other notable highlights include a rendition of Arthur Johnson’s “Pennies From Heaven,” dedicated to Cervini’s two year old daughter; and Debussy’s “The Engulfed Cathedral,” as found on their debut album. The band would serve up a pair of new and unreleased tracks too, including a cover of the 2016 Radiohead tune, “Present Tense.” Indeed, at the very mention of Radiohead, I’m sure that many in the room (myself included) expected to hear “The Daily Mail,” as found on Turboprop’s “Rev” album, making this a pleasant surprise for all. Ernesto clearly loves to reimagine the music of the indie-rockers from Oxfordshire, composing and adding “Present Tense” to the set list just a couple of days prior to the show.
Naturally there were plenty of opportunities to share new tracks from “Abundance,” showcasing Tara’s composition titled “The Queen” (“it’s about ants, not aunts, you know, queen ants,” stated Cervini), and Adrean’s contribution, “The Ten Thousand Things.” Dan Loomis’s title track (“Abundance Overture”) was shared too, along with the fantastic (and surprising) cover of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile.” And props to Ernesto for tying in the theme of “Abundance” with the US holiday on which this show was taking place. Only too happy to wish his Wisconsin-born saxophonist Joel Frahm a Happy Thanksgiving, Cervini would lift his left leg to proudly display some appropriate socks for the occasion. “I even wore these socks, that have turkeys and carrots and broccoli on them,” he joked.
All six musicians had their moments in the spotlight, and dazzled with the mastery of their respective instruments. Whether playing classics, standards, original pieces, or non-jazz covers, the music was tight, lively, and flawless all evening. And after wrapping up their final number to bring the evening to a close, we once again offered our gratitude to ‘fate’ and that last minute tweet that brought us all together. A very enjoyable evening of jazz music, and a wonderful start to our Thanksgiving trifecta of live music shows.
- No Rain (Blind Melon cover)
- The Engulfed Cathedral
- Abundance Overture
- The Queen
- Granada Bus
- De Molen
- Present Tense (Radiohead cover)
- My Shining Hour
- Pennies From Heaven
- ***New Track – Title Unknown***
- The Ten Thousand Things