Anyone who can take my least favorite Basie recording, “April in Paris,” and make it sound as captivating as Bob Mintzer does on Homage to Count Basie (no “one more time!” or “one more once!”) has earned an enthusiastic thumbs–up without taking another step. But the talented tenor overlord doesn’t stop there; he “Mintzerizes” four other tunes associated with the Basie band and blends in three of his own compositions to produce a banquet fit for (the ears of) a King — or a Count. Mintzer does for Basie what Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra have done for Ellington, except (here’s an heretical thought) Mintzer’s band does it better. The reason lies in those “Mintzerized” charts, which go well beyond mere transcription to reinvigorate such overworked warhorses as “April in Paris,” “One O’Clock Jump,” “Cute,” “Shiny Stockings” and “Li’l Darlin’.” Mintzer’s three compositions are excellent as well, and one can almost hear Sammy Nestico muttering, “Damn! I wish I’d written that!” as he (or she) listens to the deeply–grooved opener, “Havin’ Some Fun” (which follows Nestico’s time–tested recipe so closely that Sammy probably could have written it). Mintzer salutes a former President with “Lester Jumps Out” and, as he writes in the liner notes, superimposes “the Basie sensibility on an R&B groove, what might have happened if Sly Stone and Count Basie teamed up,” on “Home Basie.” Like everything else on the album, it works. Speaking, as we were a few sentences ago, of havin’ some fun, Mintzer and the other soloists do precisely that, letting it all hang out on every number. The leader’s expressive tenor is heard with baritone Roger Rosenberg on “Fun,” with pianist Phil Markowitz, tenor Scott Robinson, trumpeter Scott Wendholt and bassist Dennis Irwin on “Lester,” and by itself on “Home Basie” (on which drummer Brian Brake replaces John Riley). Markowitz sits in for Basie on “April in Paris,” shares solo honors with Robinson, Rosenberg, trumpeter Byron Stripling, trombonist Larry Farrell and alto Pete Yellin on "One O'Clock Jump" and with Stripling and trombonist Keith O'Quinn on "Shiny Stockings." Wendholt, Robinson and trombonist Michael Davis are the soloists on Neal Hefti's "Cute," Farrell and trumpeter Michael Philip Mossman on another Hefti composition, the even-tempered "Li'l Darlin'." Mintzer has always employed world-class musicians, and Homage is no exception. These gentlemen are flat-out awesome, there are no audible shortcomings, and if they don't swing quite as wildly as Basie, that's only because no one ever has.
Contact:Digital Music Products, P.O. Box 15835, Park Square Station, Stamford, CT 06901; www.dmprecords.com
Bob Mintzer, leader, tenor sax, clarinet, flute; Lawrence Feldman, Pete Yellin, alto sax, clarinet, flute; Scott Robinson, tenor sax, clarinet, flute; Roger Rosenberg, baritone sax; Bob Millikan, Byron Stripling, Scott Wendholt, Michael Philip Mossman, trumpet, flugelhorn; Michael Davis, Keith O