At 36, Toronto Canadian drummer Ernesto Cervini is no musical novice. He began playing music when he was five and, at the age of 16, acquired a degree in classical piano and clarinet at the Royal Conservatory, while also embracing and playing jazz drums. Cervini’s band Turboprop releases its third album, Abundance, this month.
What’s the story on Turboprop?
I have a sextet called Turboprop. This is our third album releasing under Anzic Records out of New York City. The band is a sextet, reminiscent of the Art Blakey Band, not only because it has a drummer-leader, but also because we do original music, arrangements of standards and arrangements of non-jazz tunes. We did a Debussy piece on our first album and we did a Radiohead tune on our last album. The instrumentation is: alto sax, tenor sax, trombone, piano, bass, drums.
You’re on the live stage and ready to play. What’s going through your mind?
As a drummer, I try to gauge the room in terms of how balanced it’s going to be, where the drums are going to sit, so I try to relax, get focused and try not to think too much about the music. Drums can be overpowering quite easily, so I try to figure out how things are sounding in the room when I get there early and do a sound check, but it’s different once the room is filled.
Which instrument, other than drums, do you appreciate the most?
As a drummer, I always have a very close relationship with the bass player, because the two of you are working hand in hand to keep the time steady and keep everything feeling good. It’s hard to pick one special instrument, but, if I had to, it might be the bass. It’s an incredibly challenging instrument to play physically, so I always have a special appreciation for people who can make it sing and can play it with authority and great time.
You have a pass to The Other Side to talk with a jazz musician who’s passed. Whom would you choose?
I’ve always been fascinated with Bill Evans; he’s always been one of my favorites. I had a performance last night and afterwards the band was talking about this question. I said Bill Evans. I don’t know what I’d talk to him about, I just want to be around him just to see what he was like and to hear him play. That would be incredible.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Doing the same thing I’m doing now, which, I think, is to not say I’m not moving forward, but to say I’m really happy in what I’m doing right now. I’m playing in three or four major projects that I really, really enjoy and am very passionate about, with the people I work with. I tour around Canada, North America Europe and Asia. Also, I teach at the University in Toronto, so I see myself taking on a bigger role there as well. *