Tuesday, July 31, 2018

At the helm of his Swing City septet, Ernie Krivda - Cleveland's tenor saxophone titan - creates A Bright and Shining Moment

A local hero who has gone on to become a national treasure, Cleveland's Ernie Krivda is one of the great tenor saxophonists of present day jazz. Listeners familiar with his many recordings and who've been lucky to witness his instrumental magic live can attest to Krivda's creativity and outsized virtuosity. His new recording A Bright and Shining Moment, available June 15 via Capri Records, allows us a satisfying glimpse of Krivda's wider range of musical talents. In addition to his superb saxophone stylings we have a chance to appreciate Krivda's skills as an inventive composer and arranger and an inspired bandleader of a mid-sized ensemble. For those who know the Cleveland polymath mainly as a charging improviser, A Bright and Shining Moment will be a revelation.

As Krivda explains in the album's detailed liner notes, the original septet's mission was to reflect a broad swath of jazz styles, touching on milestone eras of the music. "The band would be called Swing City," Krivda relates. "The name would identify the rhythmic groove that the band's musical stories would ride on, and our respect for its place in the pantheon of jazz. We valued freedom of spirit with a commitment to feel and melodic clarity as sources of beauty and a way to connect with each other and the audience. With a fresh perspective, we heard a jazz culture that would use skill, craft, and individuality to create a people's music." A Bright and Shining Moment captures recordings from the ensemble's prime period shortly before it disbanded in 2002.

Swing City's very reason for being was to produce driving, lusty and accessible jazz. Whether digging into durable Eliingtonia including "Mood Indigo," "Caravan" and "The Mooche"; such standards as "Summertime" and "The Man I Love"; a gathering of Hoagy Carmichael gems; or Krivda's own memorable tunes including the beautiful Strayhorn-influenced ballad "Easter Blue," Swing City fully lived up to its name.

As always with Krivda's projects, there's plenty of meaty saxophone playing, but one can't miss the resourcefulness and ingenuity of his arrangements. Brilliantly building on a song's structure, Krivda spins his own captivating melodic tales, masterfully blending swing era, bebop and other delightful hints of sundry jazz styles. (The drummer John Bacon takes credit for the fine charts on "The Mooche and "Dream of Life.") Krivda's scores make sure to feature other talented members of the septet including pianist Joe Hunter, trombonist Chris Anderson, bassist Marion Hayden and trumpeter Steve Enos. (The late local legend Marshall Baxter Beckley is the featured vocalist on a rousing version of "Summertime.")

Swing City may no long exist as a working unit, but A Bright and Shining Moment ensures that this energized ensemble will not soon be forgotten.

A 2009 recipient of the Cleveland Arts Prize award for lifetime achievement in music, the saxophonist, bandleader educator and recording artist Ernie Krivda has been a driving force in jazz since the 1960s. After establishing himself as one of Cleveland's foremost musicians, Krivda performed with such major jazz artists as Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy DeFranco and David Sanborn. At the helm of his own quartet as well as the Fat Tuesday Big Band, Krivda has firmed up a national reputation as a leading improviser and bandleader. Krivda has also won the Jazz Legends award from the Tri-C Jazz Festival and a Community Partnership of Arts and Culture Fellowship.

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