In lesser hands the title of this new CIMP release might seem both pompous and presumptuous, but not so when the mantle applies to Ernie Krivda. The Cleveland-based saxophonist has been in the game going on four decades, time enough to sharpen chops on his horn that easily justify the aggrandizing appellation. Narrowing his set of influences isn't as easy as it might seem: I hear slivers of Harold Land and Zoot Sims in his sound, but mostly in terms of feel rather than explicit phrasing or tone.
For Stellar Sax Krivda convenes his regular working quintet with old confrere Jeff Halsey sitting in for Kurt Kotheimer on bass. Testimony to the leader's belief in nurturing young talent, both Farinacci and Intorre are less than half their employer's age. Each demonstrates the same mature musicianship so consistently in evidence on earlier dates. Krivda's previous CIMP sessions placed emphasis on long-standing entries in his songbook; Stellar Sax switches gears to showcase new works scripted by his tunesmithing quill.
The program swaps quantity for quality and temporal girth, emphasizing extended blowing across five cleverly eclectic compositions. All but the closing Krivda solo feature "Starlight Musing stretch well past ten minutes apiece, allowing for a multitude of individual and ensemble permutations. The arrangements are lengthy and elaborate, but never longwinded (pun unintended). The opening "Alcara li Fusi fuses Italian folk connotations to a jazz-metered groove anchored by Halsey's elastic amplified bass. Krivda's tenor exudes a wry romanticism through a pair of solos, and there's plenty of space for low-key swinging statements from all, save Intorre, who concerns himself with sustaining a fluid syncopated cadence.
"Adagio references an even more heterogeneous mixture by stitching threads of baroque classicism, tango and jazz balladry into a singular plush weave. Intorre shapes a mellow march tempo while Krivda's burnished horn states a legato theme, soon joined by Farinacci's rounded and dulcet brass. Fraser comps limpidly against the robust bass throb of Halsey, and the piece evolves into a string of gradually segueing written and improvisatory passages.
Both "For Jacqueline and "The Autumn Carnivale hover around the generous eighteen-minute mark and evince the same sort of structural diversity and creativity as their predecessors. The first serves as Krivda's heartfelt musical tribute to classical cellist Jacqueline du Pré. It unfolds as a lilting waltz that hinges on the supple brush and stick work of Intorre, but once again the drummer ends up the odd man out when it comes to solo honors. The second piece traffics in limber Latin rhythms and twisting hard bop structures, with strong tandem statements by the horns opening into another succession of effervescent expositions.
CIMP's promise of an intimately rendered personal concert rings reliably true in this case. Krivda's post bop proclivities and those of his partners may not reflect the label's usual preoccupations with freer-leaning jazz, but the results are just as adventurous and engaging in their own way.
Track Listing: Alcara li Fusi; Adagio; For Jacqueline; The Autumn Carnivale; Starlight Musing.
Personnel: Ernie Krivda: tenor saxophone; Bob Fraser: guitar; Dominick Farinacci: trumpet; Jeff Halsey:
bass; Carmen Intorre: drums. Recorded June 15-16, 2005, Rossie, NY.