Saxophonist Bob Mintzer was born January 27, 1953. Beginning in the early 1970’s, he studied at both the Hartt College of Music and the Manhattan School of Music. Although he is a long-time member of the smooth jazz group The Yellowjackets, when he is away from them no one plays straight ahead jazz better.
Besides the sax, Mintzer also plays bass clarinet, but only rarely.
Mintzer has played with a long list of jazz luminaries, including Buddy Rich, Tito Puente, Jaco Pastorious, Louie Bellson, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, and others. According to his web site, he has done session work with James Taylor, Steve Winwood and Queen, among others.
In addition to appearing with The Yellowjackets, his big band and quartet and his solo career, Mintzer also teaches jazz at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles. He has written more than 200 big band arrangements.
Mintzer’s album, “Homage To Count Basie”, was awarded the 2002 Grammy for best large jazz ensemble recording. He had been previously nominated five times.
Besides his own albums, he has appeared as a sideman on a long list of CD’s, including albums by Bob Thiele, David Sanborn, Peter Erskine, Nancy Wilson, the GRP All-Star Big Band, Marvin Stamm, Kurt Elling, Bobby McFerrin, and many others.
|In The Moment – 2008
The Bob Mintzer album I want to talk about today is his 2008 quartet release, “In The Moment”.
As usual, let’s start with the players.
Bob Mintzer, tenor sax and bass clarinet
Jay Anderson, bass
Phil Markowitz, piano
John Riley, drums
At the time it was recorded, “In The Moment” was Mintzer’s first small group recording in six years. At that, it came about almost by accident.
Anderson, Markowitz and Riley form the rhythm section for Mintzer’s big band, and the four of them were at engineer Hal Winer’s then-new recording studio to check it out and put it through its paces. The fact that they wound up with nine publishable tracks after only four hours speaks volumes of the skills these guys possess.
Speaking of the nine songs on “In The Moment”, six are from Mintzer’s own hand, plus we get one each from Eddie Harris, Jule Styne & Sammy Cahn, and drummer Markowitz.
As if to drive home that this is no smooth jazz recording, the album opens with Mintzer’s aptly-named song, “Straight Ahead”. With no preamble, everyone jumps right in and takes off running. Anderson’s bass and Mintzer are standouts here, but this is very much everyone’s track.
“Listen Here”, one of many classics from Eddie Harris, is next. If you close your eyes, you can almost picture Harris singing along with Mintzer. This is one of the all-time great songs in jazz, and Mintzer’s group does a wonderful job with it.
The Styne & Cahn standard “Time After Time” is next. Unlike many of the songs on this disk, this one begins with Riley, Anderson and Markowitz playing just a brief head before Mintzer steps in. Mintzer’s sax sounds fantastic on this one, and as you listen it’s hard to imagine anyone but this group playing this song.
“Aha” is next. This is another one of Mintzer’s compositions, as are all the remaining songs except the last one. “Aha” starts off quietly and slowly builds. This is a complicated piece of music where something is always going on, just at the edge of your perceptions. These guys have played together for years, and the familiarity shows in the interactions between them here.
“Simple Song” is, quite simply, a very beautiful piece of music. As is “Play Pretty”.
Here are the guys playing “Simple Song”:
“Blues” is exactly what the name implies. It begins with a late night, back room solemnity that is made even more so by the timbre of Mintzer’s bass clarinet. This surely must be one of the rarest instruments in jazz, and it strikes just the right note for this song, pun intended.
Writing in the liner notes, Mintzer says of “In The Moment”:
I picked songs that had lots of room for improvisation and conversation in them. It was nice to simply go into the studio without a rehearsal and blow. First impressions seem to frequently be the best ones. I think this was the case here.
I couldn’t agree more. I can state categorically that you will find “In The Moment” by the Bob Mintzer Quartet to be a fantastic addition to your personal playlist, for a Saturday (or any other) night!
I wasn’t able to find any more excerpts from “In The Moment” online, so here is a great duet featuring Bob and the late Michael Brecker, from the album “Twin Tenors”:
To find out more about Bob Mintzer and his music, you can visit his web site here, or visit his current record label, Art Of Life Records.
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Copyright © 2012 by Al Evans. All rights reserved.