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Bob Mintzer Quartet - Quality Time
TVT Jazz
By Chuck Obuchowski

    Over the past decade, Bob Mintzer has gained renown as a big band leader, while at the same time making lots of friends in the pop jazz community as an integral member of the Yellowjackets. With Quality Time, he seems poised to make his mark in the realm of small-ensemble acoustic jazz, wherein lie his roots.
    Ably assisted by alumni of his big bands--Phil Markowitz (piano), Jay Anderson (bass) and Peter Erskine (drums)--Mintzer tackles a variety of musical styles on this program of mostly original material, including the self-explanitory "Bossa" and "Bop Boy." Surprisingly, one of the most arresting cuts is a gospel-drenched rendition of a Unitarian hymn, "Gather the Spirit." Here Mintzer preaches passionately on tenor saxophone, while Markowitz sermonizes at the keyboard with equal conviction. The latter has had years of schooling in various jazz dialects with David Liebman’s group.
    Another stand-out is "Emit A1," co-written with (and featuring) Mintzer’s Yellowjacket buddies; this delightful funky romp includes some strong bass clarinet soloing by the leader. Ironically, it may prove to be drummer William Kennedy’s last recorded performance with these colleagues, since it was just announced that Peter Erskine has assumed the drum chair with the ‘Jackets’. Erskine really shines on the title track, another funk tune, this one brimming with reggae and R&B inflections.
    It’s always been apparent that Mintzer is a top-notch composer and arranger, but Quality Time demonstrates, like no prior recording, what a fine soloist he is. Not to discount his spotlights in the bands of Buddy Rich and Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, nor his own large ensembles for that matter, but those situations did not allow the same degree of focus this release provides us with. Although tenor is his main ax, Mintzer’s soprano sax work sounds great on "A Few Good Notes," a piece which also demonstrates the "sixth sense" quality this quartet has developed by working together for years in different musical settings.
    Comparisons are bound to be made with his New York peers Michael Brecker and Bob Berg, but Bob Mintzer seems comfortable pursuing his current path. Quality Time, in its title, provides rare truth in advertising: one solid hour of captivating, quality sounds

Copyright©WWUH: March/April Program Guide, 1999

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