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Bob Mintzer Big Band: Gently

Bob Mintzer’s latest big-band release (and 12th CD for DMP) is an experiment in volume, or lack of same. He has assembled a 20-piece organization to prove a point stated in his liner notes: “Big bands can be unbelievably loud…the sax section sits in front of the brass typically. When the brass section plays loud it can sound like your head is inside a jet engine.” Mintzer should know. He’s been sticking his head as well as his reeds and flutes in that jet engine since the early ’70s.

Which is why he leads off with the title tune, a pianissimo swinger, substituting flutes and clarinets for saxes and keeping the brass and rhythm hushed while he, on tenor, and trumpeter Scott Wendholt make solo statements without clutter or competition in the background. The same gloved approach is taken for the bossa nova “Timeless.” Thanks to Peter Erskine’s drums and Jay Anderson’s bass, there is no loss of propulsion, however, and with two French horns added to the woodwinds mix, certainly no loss of color.

The longest track, “Body and Soul,” is a fine stretch-out vehicle for Mintzer, who guides his tenor through some Gil Evans lushness with inventive changes. There is also a quiet, introspective movement from Mintzer’s Quartet #2 for Saxophones (he has also composed a number of jazz etudes), but honestly, the most successful tracks are “Who’s Walkin’ Who?” and “Bright Lights” because they build in, yes, volume!

But don’t misconstrue, Bob; go forth gently. It’s a noble experiment.

Originally Published