|One Final Note Review Ernie Krivda is a tenor-wielding monster who stalks the southern shore of Lake Erie with the most virile saxophone sound around. Aside from flirting with the national scene in the mid-1970s (including a high profile gig with Quincy Jones and a trio of recordings on Inner City) this jazz maverick has practiced his art in his native Cleveland out of earshot of the major media. Yet he's built solid reputation among the cognoscenti as a saxophonist of note. Quiet as it's kept, he brandishes one of the most ravishing and distinctive sounds in music—a vibrant, raw-boned tone colored by an impassioned vibrato. He's also a composer of distinction whose pieces display a high degree of craft and daring. For several years, however, Krivda has been focusing more on playing and recording works from the Great American Songbook.
His recent return to the Cadence-CIMP fold signals a change in direction. His quintet's Plays Ernie Krivda is a follow up to the similarly titled The Music of Ernie Krivda (Cadence Jazz) recorded in 2001. The personnel is nearly identical, save for a switch to bassist Kurt Kotheimer, and dropping the piano. The constancy in the lineup is a key to the success of this disc. Like any jazz composer, Krivda benefits from the services of musicians familiar with his musical predilections. That helps to insure that the improvisations are not freestanding episodes, but rather are variations firmly rooted in the compositional soil. The band at hand is a mix of youngsters, frontline foil trumpeter Dominick Farinacci, the dynamic rhythm duo of Kotheimer and drummer Carmen Intorre, and a grizzled veteran, Krivda's longtime associate guitarist Bob Fraser. They can execute the twists of the quirky waltz "The Jerry Turn" with the confidence and skill of an experienced driver on a Formula 1 racecourse. They address the opener, "Blue Hokum" (reprised from The Music of... release), like they were just discovering bebop in a 52nd Street dive. Here and on "Passing Beauty", another repeat from the Cadence session, the songs benefit from a more transparent sound and a two-year longer relationship with the material. The music retains its spontaneity, even as the studio setting provides a spacious soundstage. While Krivda wants to showcase his compositions, he wants to do so in a blowing session atmosphere.
The leader's horn dominates the proceedings, so much so that the listener will never doubt who's the boss. He loves to play lines that stretch over eight or more measures, injecting them with sharp melodic fillips just when they seem to be running out of steam. He fills out his solos with lots of notes, jamming double-timed phrases in the most unlikely places. Farinacci picks up on Krivda's long lines, but his approach is mellower, more along the lines of Kenny Dorham than Dizzy Gillespie. And Fraser is as always a wonder, as he offers up glistening solos full of lyrical discoveries and quizzical asides. His soft, ringing comping maintains the shape of the tunes during the extended blowing sections. The rhythm section cooks relentlessly with Intorre proving to be particularly fearless as a bomb-dropper. (He reminds me a bit of another Cleveland drummer, Greg Bandy.)
Krivda's muse is best exemplified by the closing track, "Panhandle Hook". The head opens with a melodic line that evokes Coltrane's "Impressions". Krivda then inserts a short phrase that's a more personal variant on the opening line. That gives way to a dancing 16th-note line that harks back to Krivda's Hungarian heritage and his childhood experiences playing clarinet with all manner of ethnic bands. Krivda is the rare musician who has fashioned a style that encompasses with great authenticity both the echoes of those early neighborhood days and high-velocity, outbound bebop.