May 2007

Bob Mintzer
In the Moment
Art of Life

I find it easy to respect and even admire Bob Mintzer’s skills as a saxophonist and bass clarinetist, yet difficult to embrace his music. He’s a technically gifted musician, certainly, and a fine craftsman, yet he’s never evidenced much of a personality. This album is a case in point. Joining Mintzer are pianist Phil Markowitz, bassist Jay Anderson and drummer John Riley. They’ve played together a great deal, perfecting a type of ultra-competent, take-no-chances brand of postbop. The repertoire consists mainly of Mintzer’s typically well-crafted if forgettable originals, with a funky Eddie Harris tune (“Listen Here”), a standard (Styne and Cahn’s “Time After Time”) and a Markowitz ballad (“Forgiveness”) thrown in. The band’s treatments are attractive without ever really grabbing the listener. The players display a mastery of post-bop, non-free idioms and an utter disinclination to challenge convention. Mintzer is one of those saxophonists not particularly indebted to any one specific forebear, but who’s synthesized his many influences into a seamless whole. That sort of thing can be good, if the player can add something distinctively his own into the mix. Mintzer doesn’t, nor does this band.

Originally published in May 2007

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