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
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
Another stand-out is "Emit A1," co-written with (and
featuring) Mintzers Yellowjacket buddies; this delightful funky romp includes some
strong bass clarinet soloing by the leader. Ironically, it may prove to be drummer William
Kennedys 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.
Its 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, Mintzers 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