Bob Mintzer’s All L.A. Band is classic-style big-band music with cutting-edge origins. The album’s 10 tracks, original Mintzer compositions from throughout the tenor saxophonist’s decades-spanning career, were initially recorded for a play-along app that allows users to accompany, record and mix their own parts for virtually every one of the band’s 17 instruments. Drummer Peter Erskine, a longtime Mintzer collaborator who also plays on the album, produced the tracks; the app is available for download on both Mintzer and Erskine’s websites.
Fortunately, even without the interactive possibilities, the music of All L.A. Band makes for exciting listening. Mintzer and Erskine have enlisted a corps of stalwart West Coast players to bring the leader’s characteristically top-shelf arrangements to life. “Havin’ Some Fun” swings with Rat Pack cool, the assembled brass, fronted by trumpeter Wayne Bergeron and trombonist Bob McChesney, nailing a throwback vibe. The horns bring intense conviction to the intricate 6/8 figures of “Ellis Island,” and the sweetly sentimental intro of “New Rochelle” ushers in Mintzer’s most exultant melodic writing, bolstered by a spare, light-fingered solo from pianist Russell Ferrante. “Runferyerlife” finds bassist Edwin Livingston laying down brisk endurance-test groundwork for exhilarating solo features for McChesney and Erskine.
Mintzer is joined in the saxophone section by Bob Sheppard on alto, who seizes the spotlight with gritty, streetwise phrases on “Slo Funk,” and Adam Schroeder on baritone, providing Mintzer’s arrangements with a full-bellied bedrock. Mintzer himself is in fine form, wailing with nimble fervor on “El Caborojeño” and bringing lived-in swagger to the Thad Jones homage “Tribute” and to “Home Basie,” another fine showcase for Livingston and the unison horns. With or without the app, this music gives Mintzer and Erskine a vivid opportunity to show ’em how it’s done.