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Vince Mendoza: Epiphany

Ed Kopp By

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Vince Mendoza is a 37-year-old American composer and arranger well regarded for his work in both classical and jazz fields. In the latter genre, Mendoza has composed and arranged for Peter Erskine ( Transition ), the Yellowjackets ( Greenhouse ), Kyle Eastwood ( From There To Here ), and dozens of other artists.

Mendoza's two worlds meet on Epiphany, a lush eight-piece collection that features the London Symphony Orchestra and seven renowned jazz soloists: Michael Brecker and Joe Lovano (tenor saxophones), Kenny Wheeler (trumpet), John Abercrombie (guitar), John Taylor (piano), Marc Johnson (bass), and Peter Erskine (drums).

Mendoza obviously spent a great deal of time working out the arrangements on Epiphany. His compositions are delicate yet involved, chilling in spots, gorgeous in others. Epiphany won't be everyone's cup of tea, however. The music is overwhelmingly mellow and occasionally abstruse. Plus, there's no track here that's as instantly stirring as the song "Angelicus" from Mendoza's 1990 release Start Here.

Recorded at Abbey Road studios in London, Epiphany is like a soundtrack in search of a movie, but it's a very good soundtrack. This CD is by turns sentimental, peaceful and plaintive. Many of the tunes have an allusive airy quality. They're equally suitable for contemplative background music or serious listening over headphones. The jazziest track is probably "Esperanca," a bop composition featuring Brecker and Erskine. Also notable are "Ambivalence," a thoughtful, spacious piece featuring Lovano, and Barcelona, a soaring, multihued track with solos by Abercrombie, Wheeler and Brecker.

Epiphany is a cinematic effort from a very serious composer whose influences include Gil Evans, Ravel, Aaron Copland and Weather Report. As intricate as it is, I only recommend Epiphany to people who dig modern jazz and classical in equal measure.

Rating ***1/2 (out of ****)

Title: Epiphany | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Zebra Records

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