Homage to Count Basie
This is the best kind of homage. When Bob Mintzer looks back at Basie, it's with respect, not with intent to imitate. Mintzer has his own agenda: Basie-inspired arrangements, but with writing that is fresh, lively, occasionally tongue-in-cheek, always swinging.
The 17-piece band of New Yorkers responds to the charts with a healthy appreciation for Basie-type dynamics, and Mintzer rewards them with ample stretch-out solo space. "One O'Clock Jump" builds great concerted momentum, yet ends teasingly, with a fragmented, near-Dixieland postscript. "Cute" has a Bill Holman-type flavor in its voicings. On "Li'l Darlin'," the guys seem to be walking on eggshells: It is beautifully restrained, lagging behind the beat just right; unfortunately, the trademark guitar arpeggio is virtually obscured.
Mintzer the soloist reveals a gutsy, driving tenor sound on his cleverly titled original "Lester Jumps Out." Mintzer the writer likes to anchor the band's sound with a solid foundation from baritonist Roger Rosenberg and bass trombonist Dave Taylor. "Home Basie," another Mintzer original, is a monster chart, but its R&B pulse must have made Basie change key in his grave.