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Bob Mintzer: All L.A. Band

Jack Bowers By

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Even though saxophonist Bob Mintzer's name rests alone atop the marquee, the All L.A. Band is actually a mutual collaboration with acclaimed drummer Peter Erskine, one of Mintzer's colleagues in the Jazz Studies department at the University of Southern California. Besides occupying the drum chair, Erskine produced the album, while Mintzer composed and arranged its ten handsome themes.

Among the musical styles closest to Mintzer's heart are Afro-Cuban and funk, and there is plenty of both on All L.A. Big Band (whose members all live and work in the L.A. area). Mintzer has chosen the cream of the crop for this enterprise with predictable results. A trumpet section can hardly go wrong with Wayne Bergeron calling the shots, nor can a trombone section supervised by Bob McChesney. Interestingly, Mintzer has chosen to use only three saxophones: alto Bob Sheppard, baritone Adam Schroeder and himself on tenor. As for the rhythm section, pianist Russell Ferrante, guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Edwin Livingston and percussionist Aaron Serfaty are deftly navigated through every shoal by the ever-vigilant Erskine.

Mintzer's Afro-Cuban penchant is represented by the sunny opener, "El Caborojeno," as well as "Ellis Island" and "Latin Dance," funk by the aptly named "Slo Funk" (written some forty years ago for the Buddy Rich band), "Home Basie" and "New Rochelle" (composed for Mintzer's smaller group, the Yellowjackets). "Havin' Some Fun" is a laid-back riff in the Basie style, "Original People" a reggae / swing amalgam, "Runferyerlife" (previously heard on Mintzer's album Old School: New Lessons) an old-fashioned take-no-prisoners barn-burner (enfolding one of Mintzer's best solos and a rapid-fire outburst by McChesney). The album closes with the easy-moving "Tribute," an homage to trumpeter Thad Jones and the many other superb musicians who cut their jazz teeth the Basie band.

Although soloists aren't named, that's beside the point, as no one can deny that's Mintzer on tenor, Sheppard on alto, Schroeder on baritone, McChesney on trombone or Ferrante on piano—and together they account for every ad lib aside from a couple by the trumpets, and who is answerable for them is anyone's guess. What is paramount is that the All L.A. Band is splendid, and that Mintzer and Erskine have designed a consistently impressive album that should gladden the heart of anyone who is a champion of contemporary big bands.

Track Listing: El Caborojeno; Havin’ Some Fun; Home Basie; Ellis Island; Original People; New Rochelle; Runferyerlife; Latin Dance; Slo Funk; Tribute.

Personnel: Bob Mintzer: leader, tenor saxophone; Wayne Bergeron: trumpet; James Blackwell: trumpet; John Thomas: trumpet; Chad Willis: trumpet; Michael Stever: trumpet; Bob Shepard, Adam Schroeder: saxophones; Bob McChesney: trombone; Erik Hughes: trombone; Julianne Gralle: trombone; Craig Gosnell: bass trombone; Russ Ferrante: piano; Larry Koonse: guitar; Edwin Livingston: bass; Peter Erskine: drums; Aaron Serfaty: percussion.

Title: All L.A. Band | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Fuzzy Music

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