Quinsin Nachoff listens to Mark Cashion ©Brett Delmage, 2012
Quinsin Nachoff listens to Mark Cashion ©Brett Delmage, 2012
Ernesto Cervini Quartet
Montreal Jazz Festival, CBC Stage (outdoor)
Wednesday, July 4, 2012 – 8 p.m.

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Ernesto Cervini's music is the kind that goes over well on an outdoor festival stage: clear, active and vibrant. Just an hour before this concert, there had been a huge thundershower, but by the time the quartet hit the stage, the rain had stopped – and a large, expectant crowd was waiting.

Cervini, a Toronto drummer, has released three CDs with his quartet: the most recent, There, in 2011. He is known for his collaboration with musicians from both Toronto and NYC (he has a Masters degree from the Manhattan School of Music). His most constant collaboration is with Toronto pianist Adrean Farrugia, who has played on all his quartet albums; the last two also feature NYC saxophonist Joel Frahm.

For appearances at the Toronto and Montreal festivals this year, Cervini teamed up with Farrugia, bassist Mark Cashion (Toronto), and saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff (Toronto and NYC). The set list, mostly originals by Cervini, included ballads, blues, … and Radiohead.

The first number, "Unnecessary Mountain", set the style for the performance: a simple piano intro succeeded by a thoughtful sax solo with a clean edge. Both piano and sax increased in strength and syncopation throughout the piece; the bass and drums were present but not overly hard.

The pace picked up substantially with "The Monks of Oka", a bouncing number dedicated to both Thelonious and the cheese-producers, and then slowed down for "Marion Theresa". Cervini said he wrote that piece for his grandmother, and it was a lovely heartfelt ballad that garnered intense applause.

"Granada Bus", inspired by a trip to Spain, featured a strong bass line and a Spanish influence in the sax lines, along with clicking castanets. "Coconut Bill", inspired by “the wonderful phrasing of Lennie Tristano”, was a fast-paced number with a real feel for time, and back-and-forth conversations between piano and tenor sax.

"The Daily Mail" was only released by Radiohead at the end of 2011; I was surprised that any jazz artist would have so quickly considered adapting it. Farrugia introduced it with quiet, echoing piano followed by Nachoff's simple, sad sax line. The piece built in intensity while retaining the melancholy. Then all the instruments slowly became lighter, Cervini moving to brushes, and the music faded out with a last low line on sax – followed a moment later by heavy clapping.

The last piece was Farrugia's "The Ten Thousand Things", introduced by a resonant bass solo, then a few bars of hard drumming, and then piano. Farrugia appeared to be playing different rhythms on each hand in this number, and steadily increased his speed, until Nachoff finally entered with a long, anthemic sax solo. The overall feel was stirring and intense: a great closer.

This was Cervini's second appearance as a leader at the Montreal Jazz Festival. He was a finalist for the TD Grand Jazz Award and the Galaxie Rising Star Award, and although he did not win, he and his quartet certainly showed in this performance why they deserved to be nominated.

    – Alayne McGregor

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