Sometimes in jazz it’s best to be the big fish in a small pond, to be the local player looked up to by everyone for miles around. Tenor saxophonist and composer Ernie Krivda, who brings his group to the Blue Room on Friday, is a prime example.
Krivda is a world-class improviser on his horn, with a seemingly endless flow of ideas and the rare ability to make the listener feel that there’s no doubt it’s all leading to something fulfilling. He comes from Cleveland, which is a great music city for many reasons, but it doesn’t have much of a jazz reputation. He’s good enough to be a respected player on any scene in the world, yet he chose to build his career at home.
He’s the go-to guy for jazz in Cleveland, leading small groups and a big band. And staying put seems to have been a good decision for Krivda — he can work on his compositions and his playing at a relaxed pace, then recruit the best players in the region to have a band that compares favorably to any on the planet. (Hear the crew of Clevelanders and Detroiters on his most recent CD, “Requiem for a Jazz Lady.”)
There’s an old-school quality to Krivda’s sound. He plays the tenor with a surprisingly bright, trebly tone that isn’t like anyone else’s, and there’s a wide vibrato recalling Coleman Hawkins and other early masters of the saxes. But the ideas he plays are clearly those of a modernist — someone who has learned from Dexter Gordon and Charlie Parker of the bebop generation and then picked up some ideas from players who came along later, such as John Coltrane.
With all that, Krivda has built a style very much his own, with a deep bebop sensibility and the willingness to go wherever the melody wants to go.
If the real goal in playing jazz is to be yourself, Krivda’s old-and-new-school horn has quite a few lessons to teach us. A Blue Room appearance in 2014 was highly memorable, and there’s no reason to expect any less from this one. The show is at 8:30 p.m. Friday; tickets are $10.
▪ The summer Jazz in the Woods festival is being reinvented. For this year, the organizers, the Overland Park South Rotary Club, have named it the SoJo Summerfest. The June 17-18 event will be headlined by Celtic rockers the Elders and country rockers Big Time Grain Company. There are also U2 and Elton John tribute acts on the bill.
▪ The Blue Room also has the New Jazz Order big band at 7 p.m. Monday, the Kansas City Latin Jazz All-Stars at 7 p.m. Thursday and singer Ida McBeth at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
▪ The Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd., has the Foundation 627 Big Band at 8:30 p.m. Sunday; trumpeter Stan Kessler’s Force 5 at 9 p.m. Monday; the Sequel quartet at 9 p.m. Tuesday; the New Jazz Order big band at 7 p.m. Wednesday, followed by organist Ken Lovern’s OJT at 9 p.m.; guitarist Matt Hopper’s trio at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, followed by saxophonist Brett Jackson’s quartet at 9 p.m.; vibraphonist Peter Schlamb’s Electric Tinks at 9 p.m. Friday and organist Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 at 10 p.m.; and OJT again at 6 p.m. Saturday, followed by Electric Tinks again at 9 p.m.
▪ The Westport CoffeeHouse Theatre, 4010 Pennsylvania Ave., has tenor saxophonist Brad Gregory’s sextet at 7 p.m. Wednesday and the Project H at 8 p.m. Thursday.
▪ Tenor saxophonist Doug Talley and guitarist Rod Fleeman give the next performance on the Johnson County Community College jazz series, at noon Tuesday in the Polsky Theatre.
▪ The Sons of Brasil have been performing regularly for 25 years, playing Brazilian jazz with evident affection, skill and warmth, and all that is something to celebrate. They’re giving an anniversary show at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Art Factory, at 5621 W. 135th St., Suite 2630, in Overland Park’s Prairiefire development.
Joe Klopus, 816-234-4751