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Vince Mendoza: Color, Counterpoint and Open Ears

By Published: September 10, 2007
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Metropole Orchestra

AAJ: As you point out, you've very involved now with the Metropole Orchestra, the Dutch group. This is really your primary gig now, and you've done a lot of work with them. You did a recording with Elvis Costello last year. Tell me about this group, and how you accentuate that.

VM: Well, the Metropole is a sixty-piece jazz and pop orchestra that works as part of the radio system in the Netherlands. They are, simply put, the only full-time symphonic jazz and pop orchestra in the world. They play everything—they play jazz and pop, world music, film, television. They've done rap concerts, and of course they play a lot of Dutch pop music.

My aim with this orchestra since last year, as the artistic director, is to try to get them out on the world stage, playing interesting projects in all different genres. Not only in jazz, but world music and pop. I want to really put them on the map as a group that everybody needs to know about. So we're having some interesting times; things don't work quickly, but we've scheduled some cool projects. We're doing the North Sea Jazz Festival this year with [trumpeter/composer] Terence Blanchard. This year we had [Argentine bandoneon player] Dino Saluzzi doing a concert with Mariza, the Portuguese fado singer. We had John Scofield also this year. Next year is [Brazilian guitarist] Egberto Gismonti and [Italian composer] Ennio Morricone—they're not playing together. They're separate events. That would be interesting though!

Vince Mendoza

We're doing some recordings. You heard the Elvis recording [My Flame Burns Blue (Deutsche Grammophon, 2006)]. We're doing a recording with the composer and pianist Jim Beard. We're doing a recording with [composer] Gunther Schuller and one with Vicente Amigo, the flamenco guitarist.

So it's a mix of everything. It's a wonderful group; they're very talented and they speak a lot of different musical languages and they understand them all.

AAJ: It sounds like one of the best gigs in the world.

VM: It is a pretty darned good gig. I always feel happy to get out of bed to go to work in the morning, and you can't complain about that. I'm really doing what I had talked about doing when I was a kid—to be as involved in as many different ways of making music as possible.

AAJ: Of all the work you've done, do you have any favorite projects—including both your own compositions and arrangements for others? Is there anyone you'd like to work with that you haven't?

VM: When Joni's Travelogue record came out—when it was released—I sat down and listened to it. I was truly depressed for many months, because I thought, "I cannot do better than this. It's so beautiful, and it was done so well, played so well, mixed and balanced so well—every little note that was supposed to happen, happened. I just thought, "Shit, I can't do any better than this. I should retire.

Which, of course, is not true, because we're always pushing ourselves to do different things. But if I had to think of one thing I'm the most proud of, I'd have to say those Travelogue records. I still listen to them now, and they're still really extraordinary. I regret that we were not able to tour with that project, because it would have been wonderful to hear her again with a live orchestra, singing that music. And where it would have taken her, and the audiences that heard her—I think it could have been a wonderful thing. I think I'm most proud of those records.

And I have fond memories of all the records, because they represent a certain period in my development, and my relationships with other musicians that I want to remember. But purely on a musical basis, the Travelogue records were great, and I think I also really feel a lot for Epiphany as well, because I got to work with Kenny, and Mike and Pete. It's always wonderful. So those two records were my favorites.

Selected Discography

Joe Zawinul, Brown Street (Heads Up International, 2007)
Randy Brecker with Michael Brecker, Some Skunk Funk (Telarc, 2006)
Elvis Costello with the Metropole Orkest, My Flame Burns Blue (Deutsche Grammophon, 2006)
Yuring Honing, Symphonic (Challenge, 2006)
Stefano Di Battista, 'Round About Roma (Blue Note, 2002)
Joni Mitchell, Travelogue (Nonesuch, 2002)
Björk, Vespertine (Elektra, 2001)
Björk, Selmasongs (Elektra, 2000)
Joni Mitchell, Both Sides Now (Reprise, 2000)
Vince Mendoza, London Symphony Orchestra, <Epiphany (Zebra Acoustic, 1999)
Bart van Lier, Twilight (Koch Jazz, 1998)
Kyle Eastwood, From Here to There (Columbia, 1998
Vince Mendoza, Sketches (ACT, 1994)
Jimmy Haslip, Arc (GRP, 1993)
Mendoza/Mardin Project, Jazzpaña (Atlantic, 1992)
Vince Mendoza, Instructions Inside (Manhattan, 1991)
Vince Mendoza, Start Here World Pacific, 1990)
John Abercrombie, Animato (ECM, 1990)
Vince Mendoza, Vince Mendoza (H.I.T. Avenue, 1989)
Peter Erskine, Transition (Zenon, 1987)

Photo Credits
Top Photo: Pamela Fong

Bottom Photo: Jos L. Knaepen

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