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Retrospective looks back at liner notes will likely yield a preponderance of writers decrying the dearth of public notice afforded their subjects. So many musicians hold the signifier "unsung" next to their names that the count is long since lost. As such it hardly seems worth it to affix the word to Ernie Krivda’s situation, no matter how true it may ring. Krivda’s one of those local heroes; the sort who ignores the bait of the Big Apple and opts instead to toil away in his hometown (in Krivda’s case Cleveland, OH). Far from a self-imposed curse, this sort of provincialism can pay dividends. Away from the maddening politics and cutthroat financial realities of New York, musicians often retain a grounding and perspective lost to their so-called "more adventurous" peers.
The tactic has served Krivda well. Sure, a higher profile and the opportunities to tour and record that come with it would be nice. Even so he’s built a reputation through diligence and hard work that listeners willing to look have taken notice of. Among Krivda’s various admirers is producer Bob Rusch, who has bankrolled the bulk of his sessions over the years, including five for Cadence Jazz and one for CIMP. Curiously enough, Krivda was the first to record for the latter label, but logistic wrinkles with the session led to a scrapping and rescheduling. In the interim the Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton trio secured the inaugural slot.
Krivda’s belated return to the Spirit Room finds him in familiar company. He and guitarist Bob Fraser have worked together since the early '60s. Associations with the other three, all in their early twenties, date from 2001. The relative youth of the group is hardly a handicap. Enthusiasm and energy was so high that quintet recorded enough material for two complete albums over the span of two days. This first entry essays six tunes varying in length from several minutes to a half hour. Krivda’s style situates comfortably in post bop. He espouses a strong respect for conventional harmony and melody. While charged with creativity, his improvisations rarely abandon such stanchions completely. In this respect he’s somewhat unique in the CIMP annals, a library known for its free jazz holdings.
Lithe heads expand into equally lubricious solos. On “Blue Hokum” Krivda rides out the tight unison theme into an extended bop-tinged burst of seesawing phrases. Fraser comps brightly behind him and supplies the same support for Farinacci whose crisp lines surf the cymbal heavy froth issuing forth from Intorre’s kit. The guitarist’s own solo mixes round single notes with spates of nimble strumming. Kotheimer loses ground in a few places, but his steady pizzicato rises to the top when his partners ease back. Intorre caps the tune off with a string of sturdy breaks.
At the other end of the program, “Panhandle Hook” acts as a moody, minor-key closer. Another forty minutes of hard-swinging jazz sits sandwiched between ripe for discovery. Clevelandites should count themselves lucky that such talents reside in their city.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.