Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Bob Mintzer: All L.A. Band

Fuzzy Music
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: All L.A. Band

Some musicians are like fine wine: The longer they exist, the better the quality when the bottle is opened anew. Saxophonist Bob Mintzer and drummer Peter Erskine are two examples. And, as often is the case, primo artists attract other primo artists; the result is a magnificent case of jazz.

The L.A. Jazz Band features some of the finest musicians who make their home on the West Coast: a trumpet section of five masters; a trombone section of four equally adept artists; a three-man reed section; Larry Koonse on guitar; Russ Ferrante on piano; and a bassist and another percussionist to support Erskine, who also produced this album. 

Mintzer composed and arranged all the tracks, and the result is a monster library that covers all jazz bases. The shelves include three Afro-Cuban selections, one of which is the opener, “El Caborojeno,” which grabs you by the throat and swings madly. The Basie-style charts — “Havin’ Some Fun,” “Home Basie” and “Tribute” — are typical of that wonderful style; every part of your body will start moving, as you join into the beat.

“Original People” is in a reggae mood, and a couple of tunes will take you back to the Yellowjackets days. (Mintzer was a member of that group for 20 years.) He also wrote “Slo Funk” for the Buddy Rich band, when he was a sideman with them. Nor can we overlook hard bop, exemplified by “Runferyerlife.”

This is a wonderful trip through all of the avenues of Jazz City. The ensemble melodic lines groove smoothly, and the many solo choruses are first-class. As always is the case, when I hear big band albums such as this one — produced via only one recording session, or special occasion — I’m reminded of the past, when this kind of music was readily available almost everywhere, almost any time.

This is a very welcome blast from the past.

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