As “quality time” is wholly subjective, others may find time spent with saxophonist Bob Mintzer’s quartet(s) far more pleasurable than I. On the one hand, Mintzer is a first–rate player, consistently resourceful and well–respected by his fellow musicians; on the other, he seldom manages to induce even the slightest response from my emotional nerve–center — even though I’ve appreciated some of his big–band endeavors such as Latin from Manhattan, Art of the Big Band and Big Band Trane. Hard to explain? Sure it is. All the notes are enfolded properly in place, and the music flows as evenly as it should, but a key ingredient seems to be missing — call it personality, charisma or whatever. The upshot is that Mintzer dances nimbly around these ears without ever fashioning a secure impression. Not his fault, of course, but mine. He is, after all, merely delivering the message; it falls on my shoulders to receive and decipher it, something I’ve never been wholly able to accomplish. Would that it were otherwise, but it’s not. As for the music on Quality Time, Mintzer’s new release on TVT, it’s largely straight–ahead and well–mannered. Mintzer penned eight of the charts, co–wrote “Emit al” (on which he plays tenor, bass clarinet and EWI) with Ferrante, Haslip and Kennedy, and rounds out the program with a traditional hymn, “Gather the Spirit.” Rhythmically, Mintzer alternates between the rock–shuffle cadences so often employed by his longtime colleagues, the Yellowjackets, and more sophisticated backdrops, as on “A Few Good Notes,” on which he plays soprano; the ballad “All Is Quiet,” the fast–moving “Bop Boy” and the bluesy “Groovetown.” There are two rhythm sections (with Ferrante, Haslip and Kennedy sitting in on “Emit al” and “Family”), and each might best be described as workmanlike but amorphous — aside from a couple of respectable solos by Markowitz and Ferrante, this is Mintzer’s date, and they are there to lend support, which they do. Quality Time is a commendable session, well–planned and carried out. I regret that it didn’t push any of my buttons.
Track listing: Quality Time; Overlap; A Few Good Notes; Emit al; All Is Quiet; Bop Boy; Groovetown; Gather the Spirit; Bossa; Family (59:45).
Bob Mintzer, tenor, soprano saxophones; Phil Markowitz, piano; Jay Anderson, bass; Peter Erskine, drums, except tracks 4 & 10
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