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Ernie Krivda: Blues for Pekar

Dan McClenaghan By

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Cleveland, Ohio-based tenor saxophonist Ernie Krivda teams up with his "Detroit Connection," a rhythm section of Motor City jazz stalwarts, on Blues for Pekar, a swinging mainstream set that bursts to life with a fiery take on the standard, "The End of a Love Affair." After a brief unison head with the first of his guest front-liners, trumpeter Dominick Farinacci, Krivad—an under-appreciated veteran with more than thirty CDs to his credit—cuts loose, announcing himself as a stylist as idiosyncratic as Eric Dolphy or Lee Konitz, lifting the roof off the studio with some explosive up-tempo blowing.

On the 1920s Vincent Youngman ballad "More Than You Know," it's just Krivada and the rhythm section, led by pianist Claude Black, who adds gentle splashes of elegance to Krivda's burly, growling tenor sound. "Valse Hot," from the pen of saxophone legend Sonny Rollins, features Sean Jones on trumpet; the Krivda/Jones front line plays the melody straight at first, then the saxophonist goes into his solo with as much energy and verve as Rollins did, threatening to take the tune apart without quite doing so, giving way to Jones' contrastingly smooth, bright-hued solo.

Krivda's approach—his bold, muscular sound—says he is not a musician who lacks for confidence. His style is to explode with force-of-nature power, much in the way that the late tenor sax great Dexter Gordon did; and it's Gordon's tune, "Fried Bananas," again featuring Jones, that cooks hotter than an almost out-of-control grease fire.

After his distinctive takes on the American Songbook and jazz standards, Krivda offers up two excellent original compositions: "One for Willie," for the late saxophonist/composer Willie Smith; and "Blues for Pekar," for jazz lover and critic Harvey Pekar. Both swing hard, with bassist Marion Hayden carving a deep groove on the former, and trumpeter Farinacci—after a somewhat laidback opening salvo—sounding almost as hot as the leader on the latter.

It's CDs like Blues for Pekar that keep mainstream jazz vital and exciting.

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