September 17th, 2019
TuneTown, the trio composed of Kelly Jefferson (saxophones), Artie Roth (acoustic bass), and Ernesto Cervini (drums), first came together in 2016. Each member of the trio is busy in their native Canada and in the lower 48 states. Readers of this blog know Cervini as a tireless drummer and composer, leading or co-leading several groups (including Turbopop and Myriad 3). Jefferson studied at McGill University in Montreal and earned his Masters Degree at the Manhattan School of Music. He has played with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Maria Schneider, Kenny Werner, Brian Blade and a slew of others. Roth also studied in the U.S. thanks to grants from the Canada Council and has been a busy sideman and leader for over two decades. He’s issued three albums since 2005 as the leader of the Artie Roth Quartet.
Not surprisingly, the band’s debut album “Here To There” (Slammin’ Media) features a wide spectrum of pieces, from originals to fascinating re-arrangements of Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady” and Cole Porter’s “All of You.” Roth’s melodic bass leads the Ellington into a rubato landscapes of long tones from the tenor sax and colors splashing from the brushes and cymbals. The conversation in the rhythm section continues as Jefferson plays the lovely melody. The airiness of the music makes the music more plaintive. Meanwhile, the Porter classic gets a straight-ahead, swinging, reading with more fine brushes work and handsome counterpoint from Roth. Cervini tap-dancing drumming beneath the fine tenor solo imbues the music with a joyous feel. When the drummer switches to sticks, the music picks up steam with all three charging ahead.
There’s plenty to like on the original pieces. Pieces such as Cervini’s “The Monks of Oka” can play within and without the “tradition” – the piece has a bop feel and a drive from the rhythm section that feels unstoppable. There’s a funky backbeat to “Split Infinity” and the interaction between Roth’s throbbing, droning, bass lines and Jefferson’s echo-heavy tenor sax has a mysterious feel, staying clear of cliché. Listen the playful stick work that permeates “The Mayor“, a short ditty with rampaging percussion, the boisterous tenor, and melodic underpinnings from the bass that hearkens back to Trio Air and its “ragtime” deconstructions.
“Here to There” closes with the bassist’s “A Transient Space” – it’s a quiet ballad with numerous silences, Jefferson’s soprano sax keening at times and sounding oboe-like at others, while Roth fills the bottom with melodic murmurs and Cervini’s changes the rhythmic feel from time-to-time, dropping in-and-out of a flow. A blues feel creeps in 2/3rds of the way through, the volume increases, and Jefferson begins wailing. Yet, the music turns back towards the quiet side and easily comes to a close.
TuneTown has created a delightful debut recording, a 44-minute journey into the collective minds of Kelly Jefferson, Artie Roth, and Ernesto Cervini. Certainly sounds like they are having fun and there’s a great possibility the avid listener will as well.
Richard B. Kamins