Bob Mintzer: Amazing Reach
BM: I've studied a lot of different arrangers, from Duke Ellington and all the great writers and arrangers in the Basie band to Gil Evans and just about everyone-anyone and anybody in and out of jazz music.
AAJ: There are four original compositions of yours on the recording. What was your approach to composing for these tunes?
BM: The first composition on the CD is called "Aha," and it's actually a tune that I wrote for the Yellowjackets, at least initially. It kind of morphed into this tune that had this sort of funny little groove-it tilts over into the Brazilian rhythm called baião a little bit. And it's a fun sort of open tune for soloing, too.
AAJ: The title track, "For the Moment," is based on another composition.
BM: I took the harmony of "Never Let Me Go," which is such a great tune, and I kind of fashioned it into this little Brazilian-tinged tune that features a woodwind section using a nice, light sound. The title for my tune comes from the idea of being present in whatever you do in the moment, for the moment-living for the moment. Another CD of mine not too long ago had a similar title, In the Moment (Art of Life, 2007), so I guess I must feel strongly about this way of thinking.
AAJ: You only solo on three of the tunes on the album, and you also leave room for Bob Malach to solo.
BM: He's a great tenor saxophonist. What's interesting is that one reviewer of the CD said that I took all the solos and didn't leave enough room for other people, but I disagree with this completely. As a big-band leader, it's so important to have as many players as possible to solo. That's part of the joy and beauty of big bands, and I'm always very vigilant of that and do my utmost to make sure that everyone gets to play.
AAJ: In addition to Chico Pinheiro, another important musician featured on the CD is Russell Ferrante.
BM: Russell is one of the greatest piano players I know. He's a team player. He's one of the best accompanists there is, a dynamic soloist. I'm comfortable with using him on any project I do. One of the all-time greats. Clearly an unsung hero in many ways. A very quiet, unassuming guy, and I think he deserves a lot more recognition than he gets.
AAJ: Peter Erskine plays a prominent role on the CD, too.
BM: Yes, Peter is a long-time friend. We actually met in high school. We went to an arts high school together in 1969, the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, and we've collaborated on many things since then. We started out on similar paths. I joined Buddy Rich; he went with Stan Kenton and later Maynard Ferguson. He then joined Weather Report, and we kind of met up in Jaco Pastorius' band in the early '80s and wound up playing on each other's solo recordings. Now, since I moved to Los Angeles, we're both on the faculty at USC and play together all the time.
AAJ: You mentioned Marty Ashby as playing guitar on the CD. He also played an important role with his connection with the Manchester Craftsman's Guild.
BM: He's a very well-rounded person. He's a great musician and a great organizer of jazz music, and he does it all. I'm so very grateful for all that he does-somebody who pioneers the cause of jazz music in a huge way.
AAJ: Switching over to your work with the Yellowjackets, the band had a recent change in personnel, with Felix Pastorius filling in for Jimmy Haslip on bass. How do you find playing with Felix?
BM: Felix is a really excellent musician-very clever guy. He's doing very nicely with the band. We're all having a great time working with him. We're getting ready to do a new recording with him soon, which we're looking forward to.
AAJ: You did some outstanding work with Jaco Pastorius, such as his big band featured on the Birthday Concert (Warner Bros., 1981). How do you compare your work with Jaco and Felix?
BM: Working with Jaco was very interesting and challenging. He had some really unusual concepts and ideas. He, obviously, was a very great bassist, as is Felix. Felix, while he's been influenced by his dad, as any electric bassist has been, he's got some stuff of his own. He's extremely clever and hard working. When he solos on Yellowjackets tunes, he really gets inside the harmony and plays some unexpected things, really brilliant things. I mean, Jaco was that way, too. Jaco played in that era, when we were young, playing with a lot of bands-Wayne Cochran, Blood, Sweat and Tears and, of course, Weather Report. I think there are fewer opportunities right now to hone your craft playing, so Jaco had a little edge, maybe, but Felix is coming along. He's definitely someone to watch. Being with the Yellowjackets, I think, will be a huge opportunity for him for a lot of growth. Both Pastoriuses are pretty challenging and inspiring.