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Bob Mintzer: Amazing Reach

Bob Mintzer: Amazing Reach
By Published: | 16,570 views
Reaching other people with the music - that’s an amazing thing... I know when I hear great music, it makes me hopeful and inspired and optimistic, and that’s a great way to influence people.
For about half of his four decade-long career in jazz, Bob Mintzer has been a member of the Yellowjackets
Yellowjackets
Yellowjackets

band/orchestra
, one of the most enduring, distinctive and creative bands in contemporary jazz. But, oddly enough, this association is a relatively small slice of Mintzer's remarkably multifaceted life in music as a saxophonist, bass clarinetist, composer, arranger, educator and leader of his own big bands and small groups. For Mintzer, the phrase "busy as a bee" certainly applies.

Born in 1953 in New Rochelle, New York, a town that sits just two miles north of New York City, Mintzer has been an active professional jazz musician ever since his college days at the Manhattan School of Music. Beginning in 1975, he had a two-and-a-half year stint with the Buddy Rich
Buddy Rich
Buddy Rich
1917 - 1987
drums
Big Band, where he started writing and arranging for large ensembles. His playing and writing experience there led to a spot with the Thad Jones
Thad Jones
Thad Jones
1923 - 1986
trumpet
/Mel Lewis
Mel Lewis
Mel Lewis
1929 - 1990
drums
Jazz Orchestra. By the early 1980s, Mintzer was leading his own big band, performing at Seventh Avenue South, the legendary New York City club owned by Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker
b.1945
trumpet
and Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
1949 - 2007
sax, tenor
, and recording for Digital Music Products (DMP), one of the first fully digital recording labels. He joined the Yellowjackets in 1991, bringing a straight-ahead jazz sensibility to a band that had already begun blending such flavoring in with its earlier R&B and fusion sound. Other important associations Mintzer has had over the years include such musicians as percussionist Tito Puente
Tito Puente
Tito Puente
1923 - 2000
band/orchestra
, drummer Art Blakey
Art Blakey
Art Blakey
1919 - 1990
drums
, bassist Jaco Pastorius
Jaco Pastorius
Jaco Pastorius
1951 - 1987
bass, electric
and Gil Evans
Gil Evans
Gil Evans
1912 - 1988
composer/conductor
, in addition to session work for Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin

vocalist
, James Taylor and many others.

Mintzer has written some 200 arrangements for big band. He's recorded more than 30 albums as a leader and played on hundreds of others. His Homage to Count Basie
Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
piano
(DMP) won a Grammy award for best large jazz-ensemble recording in 2001, and, in all, he's has been nominated for 13 Grammys for his solo work, big-band CDs and work with the Yellowjackets. He's been based in Los Angeles since 2008, when he joined the faculty of the University of Southern California, where he now heads the jazz studies program and holds the Bowen H. "Buzz" McCoy and Barbara M. McCoy endowed chair in jazz.

The Bob Mintzer Big Band began an association with the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild MCG Jazz label beginning in 2004, after a long relationship with DMP that resulted in 12 albums. The band's fourth release on MCG is a Brazilian-flavored recording, For the Moment (MCG, 2012).

All About Jazz: What inspired you to focus your big band on the sounds of Brazil with For the Moment?

Bob Mintzer: The idea for this CD came about from meeting Chico Pinheiro, a great guitarist, singer and composer. We had a very modern-day kind of meeting-online, on Facebook initially. Somebody recommended I check him out. I went to his Facebook page and listened to his music. I was very taken with it, and I left him a message. It turned out he was a fan of mine and had done his final project at Berklee on my writing. We had lunch when I was still living in New York and talked about doing something together. The first thing we did, I played on his recording There's a Storm Inside (Sunnyside, 2010). And it was soon after that that I started to think about doing a Brazilian big-band project. I looked to him, and he was eager. Chico contributed two original compositions and also performs on "Corcovado," and he sings and plays guitar beautifully on those. Marty Ashby
Marty Ashby
Marty Ashby

guitar
plays guitar on the rest of the album, and he's a beautiful player as well.

With my own writing on the CD, I focused on different cities and places that I've been to in Brazil that have their own indigenous style of music and rhythms, and this inspired me to write a bunch of original tunes as well as arrange some of the standard tunes typically associated with the Brazilian songbook. We went to Manchester Craftsmen's Guild in Pittsburgh, did two concerts and recorded them, and hence we have this CD. It was really a nice experience-very challenging and inspiring to work with Chico, a great, great musician. I think, sonically, this may be one of the better records I've made. The woodwind writing and the textural elements really turned out well on this one. It's a nice-sounding record that features a lot of musical devices and great playing.

AAJ: One of the tunes on the album, "For All We Know," might not seem an obvious choice for the Brazilian theme, but this was inspired by Claus Ogermann's original arrangements for Joao Gilberto
Joao Gilberto
Joao Gilberto
b.1931
vocalist
and Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
1927 - 1994
piano
. Is Ogerman an influence on your writing?

BM: Yes, indeed, clearly. He really was an innovator in terms of orchestration and using such a vast array of colors and textures in arranging.

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