Monday, October 03, 2011

CD Review: Ernie Krivda - Blues for Pekar

Ernie Krivda
Blues for Pekar

Some albums try to recreate a moment in time, a certain sound and/or style. Others sound like they could have just as easily been pulled from a previous decade and time-traveled into the 21st century, sounding fresh all along. Ernie Krivda's Blues for Pekar falls into the latter category.

In a way this is no surprise, at least to these ears. I saw the tenor saxophonist pull out a series of warhorses at the Detroit Jazz Festival in 2009 - the likes of which make me so "oh, not that one" despite the strength of the material - and blow the hell out of them. It's rare that "A Night in Tunisia" does that to me, outside of a jam session. A few months later, he released a solid disc for CIMP of solo saxophone performances (November Man). Suffice to say that Mr. Krivda's full of melodic creativity and sounds comfortable in all kinds of settings.

Still when he and trumpeter Dominick Farinacci fly out of the gate blowing an upbeat version of "The End of a Love Affair," they impress, sounding like some lost frontline from the Jazz Messengers. The rhythm section billed as the Detroit Connection (pianist Claude Black, bassist Marion Hayden and drummer Renell Gonsalves) respond to that high-raised bar too. Krivda unleashes an endless stream of melodic ideas over several choruses and Farinacci evokes Clifford Brown with his crisp and clear, tongued flurry of notes. Yes, it may sound be rooted in a 50-year old approach, but it has a lot of fire.

None of the seven tracks on Blues for Pekar last any less than eight minutes, so there's plenty of room for blowing. On three of those tracks, Krivda is the only horn and he sounds comfortable by himself. Sean Jones joins him on Dexter Gordon's "Fried Bananas" and Sonny Rollins' "Valse Hot," the latter which featured Clifford Brown in its original version. The head to "Valse Hot" is the one rare place on the disc that seems a little clunky. While the original featured both horns in a waltzy swing, Krivda and Jones play it almost staccato which makes the theme sound a little stiff, especially when going into the out-chorus. In between, though, there's plenty of bright moments. Krivda, who sounds a bit like Rollins in some of the other tracks, adds some vibrato to his phrases here so he won't sound too close to the original. This approach also works well in "More than You Know," where he evokes a smoky feeling, slyly quoting "Softly As In a Morning Sunrise" like he created the line.

Among other highlights, Krivda and Hayden duet on the theme to "One for Willie," an original based on the changes of "Out of Nowhere," a melodic structure that always sends me. "Blues for Pekar" is indeed dedicated to Harvey Pekar, the late jazz aficionado who was better known for his ornery comics, which reflected his personality. The track doesn't attempt to evoke the man, instead offering another strong blues performance, with Farinacci again matching wits with Krivda.

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