VOICES Notes and news on Jazz Vocals releases
26 AUG 08 ANNE FARNSWORTH
A remedy for the dog days of August, the Bob Mintzer Big Band has a new release out at the end of the month on Telarc's MJC imprint. Swing Out is aptly titled, for this session packs a lot of hard-hitting rhythm in one hour.
Each musician plays at the top of his form and tenor saxophonist Mintzer's compositions and arrangements shine with clarity and focus. As an added bonus, vocalist Kurt Elling makes a guest appearance on one of the cuts.
Recorded live at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild in Pittsburgh, PA, six of the 9 pieces are Mintzer originals. The other three can barely be called covers for Mintzer's innovative arranging style transforms them.
Aside from legacy outfits like the Basie and Ellington bands, keeping the big band genre musically contemporary and economically sustainable is a challenge in the 21st century. Mintzer is among a handful of jazz composers on a mission to keep this uplifting and powerful format vibrant and viable, calling it "the symphony orchestra of jazz music."
"The key is to acknowledge the tradition while stepping out into more contemporary devices," he says. "There are many more sounds and textures to explore with big band instrumentation."
Grammy award-winner Mintzer is also a member of the seminal (and also multi-Grammy-winning) fusion group, the Yellowjackets, who recently wrapped up a European tour with guitarist Mike Stern. This fall, he will begin a professorship in USC's Thornton School of Music Jazz Studies program, joining fellow Yellowjacket Russ Ferrante, also on faculty. I'll leave the beehive puns to you.