Well, what is your pleasure? Swinging charts? You have them. A tight big band? Yes, that certainly, and more. Terrific soloists? In abundance. A blend of genres that go from straight ahead to Latin to funk? That is all here too. The only thing absent, and all respect to Bob Mintzer
, is excitement. To be honest, many contemporary big bands doing studio recordings have a similar issue. The level of musicianship is astronomical, but something is not there. You wonder how many people could hear one of Buddy Rich
's bands and think, "Fantastic, but something is missing." There are clams, sometimes. Missed entrances. It happens. Ennui. No, never.
"A Reprieve" is Mintzer's own handiwork, and features Mintzer on EWI and an upbeat melodic line punctuated by a very good trumpet section. Paul Heller solos on tenor. "The Conversation: is another Mintzer original where the sax soli hint at Mintzer's tenure with Buddy Rich and a fine tenor solo, again by Mintzer. For some reason, "Stay Up" briefly recalls Gerry Mulligan
's Concert Band and you half expect "Blueport" to break out. "I've played thousands of 'Montunos' in my time," comments Mintzer on the tune of the same name. DIVA alumna Karolina Strassmayer
tears off a burning alto sax solo, and Mintzer again displays his versatility on EWI. "Whack" is, for want of a better characterization, an exercise in meandering, "a total experiment," says Mintzer. "Canyon Winds" is not quite program music, but the title fits, and Andy Haderer
's trumpet solo somehow manages to resonate with both Freddie Hubbard
and Maynard Ferguson
. He is some player. It is interesting to hear Mintzer reprise "One Music" with a big band, since the tune goes back to the 1990s with the Yellowjackets
. Which version one prefers is a matter of taste, but maybe the intimacy of the Jackets made it resonate a bit more. Bill Milkowski
's liner notes refer to the WDR Big Band as "an elite crew." It certainly is. Somehow big bands always seem to draw energy and excitement from a live audience. This one is the difference. In reality, perhaps that is the missing element.
A Reprieve; The Conversation; Stay Up; Montuno; Whack; Canyon Winds; Herky Jerky; New
Look; One Music; VM.