Saturday, July 30, 2016

Ernie Krivda. Requiem for a Jazz Lady

Ernie Krivda. Requiem for a Jazz Lady.
Capri Records, 2015.  Ernie Krivda:

Whether with his quartet or with the Fat Tuesday Big Band, Ernie Krivda is ubiquitous. He plays all around the region, from festivals to clubs to summer bandstand concerts, with an event in the area just about every week. He’s also prolific, having put out a new recording pretty much every year since the early 1990s. Try to keep up. This time out, the saxophonist works with a group of Detroit musicians with whom he’s had a long-term relationship.

The backstory of this album is fascinating. In the early 1960s, Krivda worked the jazz clubs of the region, one of a number of white musicians who played with black artists in a landscape that was racially complex. During that time, a young woman from his town of Garfield Heights was murdered, and he was recently contacted for information about her. This brought back a flood of memories for him and set him on the direction of this album, one that he calls “reflective.” I’d call the music noir, as it reminds me (as does the murder) of films from the postwar era in that black-and-white genre, but he might disagree. In any case, the style of music fits nicely in the bop milieu of the early 1960s, with elements of swing and R&B as well, forming what Krivda calls a “gumbo” that reflects all the various influences of music in the Rustbelt cities of the time.

Ernie in the 60s
He describes in the booklet both his life at the time and the songs he’s written or chosen for this album. Each has its own tempo, mood, and presence, but they all fit nicely together as a portrait of time and place. From the exuberance of “Questions” with its funky beat to the insistent push and strong melody of “The Remarkable Mr. Black” (dedicated to a Detroit pianist, with excellent solo by Lafayette Carthon), to the haunting ballad of the title track, it may be a gumbo but it’s all of a single tapestry. And a beautiful tapestry it is. The level of musicianship is consistently remarkable, and Krivda’s thick sax sound drapes over the whole affair like syrup. I love the sound, and have played this album numerous times at this point. It doesn’t fade in subsequent turns. I highly recommend this one for its evocation of the Cleveland jazz scene of earlier times, and for its all-around excellent playing.

Personnel: Ernie Krivda (tenor saxophone), Lafayette Carthon (piano), Marion Hayden (bass), Renell Gonsalves (drums).
Tracks: The Remarkable Mr. Black, I’ll Close My Eyes, Questions, Emerald, Great Lakes Gumbo, Little Face, Requiem for a Jazz Lady.

Jeff Wanser

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Red Sun Rising. Polyester Zeal.

Red Sun Rising.  Polyester Zeal.
Razor & Tie, 2015.  Red Sun Rising:

This alternative hard rock band from Akron has been around for about ten years and this is their third release (plus an EP), but the first on a big label, so Yay for them. As a band on their way up, they are rapidly developing a fan base, some 47,000 strong on Facebook, and have even created their own Twitter hashtag, #WeAreThread, which is supposed to describe their music. I can’t vouch for that, since I haven’t a clue about what “Thread” is (Shred in a thong?), nor a clue about hashtags frankly. But their sound seems to be a contemporary combination of postgrunge, arena rock, and 80s metal, which is certainly a fine thing if one does it right. I’d say that they’re pretty much doing it right on this album.

Soaring vocals, slight echo added, nice hooks, lots of guitar, solidly structured songs, and use of several chords are all clues. They have both skill and variety going for them. Songs are tight, and nothing overstays its welcome, although perhaps one song should have had some extended soloing, since like I said above, skill. “Push” is a great opener, a speedy, edgy song with lots of energy that displays their instrumental abilities. “Amnesia” moves the band to mid-tempo, and showcases their vocal chops. Arena rock influence shows itself well in “Unnatural,” with its anthemic atmosphere, while the metal sound makes an appearance in “Awake,” a nicely jagged hard-rocking tune with a couple of soft edges. Every album needs its ballad, and “Bliss” takes care of that, with appropriate rev-up in the middle.

Personally, I like the fast tunes, and “Imitation” fills the bill, a great closer. It seems to be about how being like everyone else is a sure path to destruction. I don’t think these guys need to worry too much. They’ve got a sound that is very different from the current pack of bands, and should carry them along well. They are touring the Midwest this month, and their next appearance in Ohio is at the Ohio State Reformatory (!), or you might want to wait until late August when they hit Akron.

Personnel:  Mike Protich (vocals, guitar), Ryan Williams (guitar), Tyler Valendza (guitar), Ricky Miller (bass, vocals), Pat Gerasia (drums).
Tracks:  Push, Amnesia, The Otherside, My Muse, Emotionless, Blister, Worlds Away, Unnatural, Awake, Bliss, Imitation.

Jeff Wanser