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Bob Mintzer Big Band: Get Up!

Jack Bowers By

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Even after more than three decades as a big-band leader, and with twenty well-received albums under his belt, Grammy winner Bob Mintzer keeps pushing the envelope, tweaking his recipe and exploring new ways in which to challenge himself and his sidemen while seducing the listener's ear. Known among other things for his fondness for Latin music, Mintzer has chosen instead on Get Up!, recorded live in October 2014 at Pittsburgh's Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, to plunge headlong into the pulsating realm of funk, soul and R&B via five of his always engaging compositions and others by the Isley Brothers, Sam & Dave (written by Isaac Hayes), Sly Stone and Wayne Shorter.

Although the music's rhythmic component is by and large trite and tedious, its melodic texture is high-caliber big-band jazz, admirably performed by Mintzer and his colleagues, among whom are two members of his quartet, the Yellowjackets: pianist Russell Ferrante and drummer William Kennedy. High marks to everyone for transcending the inbred boundaries of the material at hand and underscoring its vibrant ethos. And with all due respect to his guest composers, Mintzer's charts are the pick of the litter. As he writes in the concise liner notes, Mintzer grew up listening to that music in New York City, and he seems to have a flair for writing in that genre. Not that the other charts are less than agreeable; each one is entertaining in its own way, and they do swing within the confines of the funk / R&B design.

Shorter's "Elegant People," a showcase for tenor saxophonist Bob Malach, breaks the mold somewhat with a broader instrumental palette that includes flute, bass clarinet and unison trombones leading to Malach's brawny solo. Alas, the monotonous two-beat remains essentially the same, as it does almost everywhere else. The sax section earns its stripes on Mintzer's "Civil War," on which he and Ferrante solo. Mintzer is out front again on his "Land of Oak" and "Truth Spoken Here," the first with trumpeter John Daversa, the second with trumpeter Scott Wendholt. Ferrante, trombonist Michael Davis and alto Bob Sheppard share the honors on the finale, Mintzer's robust "Yeah Yeah Yeah." Malach and Daversa frame cogent solos on the Isleys' "It's Your Thing," Wendholt and trombonist Keith O'Quinn on Hayes' "I Thank You," guitarist Ray Obiedo on Stone's "Sing a Simple Song."

If one doesn't mind the essentially uniform rhythmic patterns (the audience at the MCG didn't seem to, saluting each number with vigorous applause), there's a lot of exhilarating music to enjoy on Get Up! The ensemble is exemplary, while Mintzer's charts (he arranged everything) are always enjoyable and well-crafted. A better-than-average big-band concert with much to recommend it.

Track Listing: Get Up!; Land Of Oak; It's Your Thing; I Thank You; Sing A Simple Song; Truth Spoken Here; Elegant People; Civil War; Yeah Yeah Yeah.

Personnel: Bob Mintzer: tenor saxophone, flute; Robert Sheppard: alto saxophone, flute; Lawrence Feldman: alto saxophone, flute; Bob Malach: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Roger Rosenberg: baritone saxophone, clarinet; Tony Kadleck: trumpet; Frank Greene: trumpet; John Daversa: trumpet; Scott Wendholt: trumpet; Keith O'Quinn: trombone; Michael Davis: trombone; Andy Hunter: trombone; David Taylor: bass trombone; Ray Obiedo: guitar; Russell Ferrante: piano; Will Lee: bass; William Kennedy: drums.

Title: Get Up! | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: MCG Jazz

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