Review: Ernie Krivda - Blues for Pekar

Krivda's homage to Pekar is a swinging success.
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Ernie Krivda - Blues for PekarHarvey Pekar once called Ernie Krivda “one of the greatest jazz tenor saxophonists in the world,” adding that nobody would know it because “he chooses to live in Cleveland.”

Location, and soaking up the soul of said location, is very important to Krivda. His Blues for Pekar, a tribute to the music critic and underground comic book writer, has Cleveland written all over it, but there are also doses of Detroit, Pittsburgh, Columbus, and other Midwest cities in the United States. For Krivda, this Midwest circuit is the musical atmosphere he longs for.

Interestingly, it was a tobacco tax that helped in getting Blues for Pekar put on record. The Cuyahoga County’s tobacco tax supports the arts, so this levy on smokers was used to fund Krivda’s latest release on Capri Records. Through the use of a Community Partnership for the Arts and Culture Creative Workforce grant, the album came to life.

Like Pekar, Krivda is a working-class artist to the bone. His dedication to his craft, and especially to its fundamentals, is distinguishable as soon as he begins to play.

Along for the ride on Blues for Pekar is Krivda's Detroit Connection, featuring three generations of bebop musicians who set fire to the ill-considered impression that jazz’s better days have come and gone. 78-year-old pianist Claude Black, bassist Marion Hayden and drummer Renell Gonsalves comprise the group. Also featured on the record are trumpeters Sean Jones and Dominick Farinacci.

The record is firmly rooted in the bebop tradition, that’s for sure, and it swings like nobody’s business.

“The End of a Love Affair” showcases the band’s ensemble dexterity. They sound bigger than they are thanks to the enthusiasm of the arrangement. The tone is set and Krivda introduces himself with an inspired solo and begins trading with Farinacci in a nice exchange of melodies.

“Fried Bananas,” a Dexter Gordon melody, is a piece that springs with the verve generated from Gonsalves’ work. Jones makes an appearance, nicely following a broad Krivda solo with a vibrant jaunt that proves this young lion can roll with the big cats.

The title track is a head-nodding pleasure, packed with soulful patches and a swaying set of phrases. Farinacci and Krivda twist again, drawing on the chic framework to pay tribute to Pekar in the only way that really makes any sense.

Blues for Pekar is a marvellous showcase from three generations of musicians. It spans cultures, bounding out of the Midwest with a sense of delight and desire for the nitty-gritties of jazz. As deeply planted in custom as Krivda is, he is, at the same time, a wholly accessible player with a mind for the music that opens doors and destroys boundaries.