Turboprop will be released on February 3, 2015, and is a monster of an album.
First, some disclaimers. I love Ernesto like a brother. He is, in fact, my brother-in-law. He also happens to be a fine, staggeringly versatile musician.
Ernesto plays the drums. He likes to hit things. He also plays piano and clarinet. Really really well. He can find his way around a trombone too. He writes and arranges and conducts bands. A bit of a monster, really.
Ernesto released two recordings on Anzic Records; Little Black Bird, and the live recording There but this is the first album we've collaborated on musically. As with most of the recent production projects I've been working on, Ernesto approached me before he had a clear idea of what exactly he wanted to record. I suggested a few options, and the possibility to record a 3-horn front line came up. I love this medium - it presents lots of orchestration possibilities, and has a rich history to draw inspiration from.
I also felt it fits Ernesto's writing and playing really well. He knows the instruments, and is a very dynamic and musical drummer. It's nice to have a front line that can compete, even on sound mass alone, with an active drummer. It has the potential to create some great sounds and energy. See the Jazz Messengers.
Ernesto settled on the format and instrumentation and went on to write some new arrangements. He actually was able to play the new material in several live performances - always a good thing. So when we talked about the music again, I could listen to the performance and review the scores. Ernesto and I went over the charts; It is a bit unusual for me to review someone else's charts and make suggestions. I feel like what's right for my ears is not necessarily universally "correct" so I tried to present as many options as I could. We also talked about the recording implications of certain arrangements, which I feel really helped us in the studio.
Ernesto planned the recording so it came on the heels of a week long tour for the band, and that proved to be really really useful. The band came into the studio knowing the music inside out. Playing in front of a live audience is very different than playing in the studio. Musicians are used to playing these charts live, at night, in front of an audience that (if you're in the right place at the right time) reacts, and participates, and gives energy back to the performers. It is hard to recreate that kind of interactive music-making in a studio, during the day, with headphones on, and with the potential to review in detail every little aspect of your playing forbiddingly looming. It is easy to lose perspective. So when a band experience's this intense tour and then goes into the studio, things may seem a bit, well, off.
Not true with this band. They all came ready to interact, play, have fun, and create some really exciting performances. This is the first time Tara Davidson and I worked together and she is a beautiful player, with a great cool sound and solos that really draw you in. William Carn plays bone beautifully - some great solos and soulful melodies. I've worked extensively with Joel Frahm before. He and Ernesto have a great hook-up, which brings the best serious/playful fun in both of them. Dan Loomis has the kind of infectious good vibe that makes you smile when you talk to him, and bounce when you hear him play, and Adrean Farrugia's piano playing is intense, sophisticated and swinging.
These cats created beautiful moments, really intense solos (I remember looking into the live room at Joel Frahm, seated comfortably, casually playing one the most burning solos I've heard. I was sure he was levitating at a some moments. Zen and the Art of Saxophone playing!).
We recorded in Toronto. The studio, The Drive Shed, was very comfortable and house engineer John "Beetle" Bailey was a pleasure to work with. We tracked everything we needed fairly quickly, and celebrated at the end of day 2 with a nice Thai take-out order, and my first crack at playing Grand Theft Auto.
Speaking of crack - our two day of tracking were dramatic in the history of Toronto. At the end of day 1, Mayor Rob Ford admitted to smoking crack cocaine probably during one of his "drunken stupors". The city was abuzz with excitement, but my suggestion to purchase "drunkenstupor.ca" was not received well (apparently, you have to be a Canadian citizen to purchase a .ca domain. Who knew!).
Ernesto edited at the Shed and took the project to be mixed with James Farber at Sear Sound in New York. Mastering was carefully done by Fedge in Toronto, who preserved James' work and added just enough to make it shine.
I'm really happy with the art for the album. On his previous albums, Ernesto used some fairly sparse art. Following my very positive experience with creating the collage cover art for the 3 Cohens Tightrope, I suggested a collage concept to Ernesto. Diana Piruzevska came up with a great concept and execution. I particularly like the band photo - you have to buy the album to see it, it is in one of the internal panels.
Check out the album here: