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Bob Mintzer Quartet: “In the Moment”

(Art of Life AL1024-2)

Digital Downloads | About the Music | Liner Notes | Selected Quotations

Bob Mintzer Quartet: "In the Moment"

Bob Mintzer: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet
Jay Anderson: acoustic bass
Phil Markowitz: piano
John Riley: drums

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Straight Ahead
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Listen Here
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Time After Time
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Aha
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Simple Song
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What's the Word
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Play Pretty
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Blues
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Forgiveness
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Digital Downloads {top}

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About the Music {top}

"In the Moment" was digitally recorded by Mick Guzauski (Eric Clapton, Yellowjackets, Earth Wind and Fire) and Neil Dorfsman (Paul McCartney, Dire Straits, Sting) and mixed by Hal Winer in 24-bit/96kHz at BiCoastal Music in Ossining, New York on December 16, 2004. Bob is joined by the current rhythm section for his Big Band which includes Jay Anderson on bass, Phil Markowitz on piano and John Riley on drums. Six of the nine songs featured on "In the Moment" were composed by Mintzer. The album also features two standards, "Listen Here" by Eddie Harris and "Time After Time" by Styne & Cahn. "Forgiveness", written by Phil Markowitz, concludes the album.

One of the key elements that contributed to the successful execution of the music the Quartet recorded was the arrangements. Each arrangement was crafted in such a way that there was a sense of composition to each tune without having the writing being too cumbersome. Bob made sure to leave lots of room for each individual's interpretation of the music. With players like these you want to provide a setting where they are able to do their own thing freely. There is a balancing act between establishing form and guidelines and allowing the room for individual expression within the arrangements.

Arranger and saxophonist Bob Mintzer has made his mark merging a traditional Jazz approach with an all encompassing modernism that embraces lyricism, a strong sense of swing and arrangements that take the listener on an unpredictable and vibrant journey. He has maintained a New York based Big Band since the early eighties, leads a Jazz quartet, is a 15 year member of the Yellowjackets, is active in music education and manages to find time to write saxophone quartets, Symphony music, Big Band arrangements, music for the Yellowjackets and several etude books. Bob honed his skills playing and writing for Buddy Rich, Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Art Blakey, Sam Jones, Jaco Pastorius, The GRP Big Band, Mike Mainieri, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri and the New York Philharmonic. He has also done session work for James Taylor, Queen, Steve Winwood, Aretha Franklin and countless others. "Homage to Count Basie" won a Grammy in 2002 for best large Jazz ensemble recording. This was Bob's fifth nomination. Bob's Big Band arrangements have become standard repertoire for Big Bands all over the world. His arrangements are published by Kendor Music and Warner Brothers Publications. His signature writing style is easily recognizable and can be heard on Jazz radio, in university settings, high schools and Jazz venues. Following Bob?s 23 year (12 CD's) stint with Digital Music Products (DMP Records) the Big Band now resides at MCG Jazz. The Bob Mintzer Quartet's-"In the Moment" recording for Art of Life Records is the first small band recording Bob has done in six years.

For more information check out www.bobmintzer.com

Liner Notes {top}

To spontaneously create, interact and rejoice in the moment is the goal of every Jazz musician. Once the parameters are set for a project it is best to get out of the way and let the music unfold. For it is the unhampered conversation that takes place in the moment in its own unique way that makes for a great performance and if the musicians have a long-standing relationship, even better!

Phil, John, Jay and I have playing together for a long time. This is the rhythm section in my big band as well. I think I've figured out a way to write a program of music in a way that allows these guys to do their thing. Again, the objective is to let it happen rather than make it happen. I honestly can't think of anyone else I'd rather play with nowadays than these three gentlemen.

The four of us got together one afternoon up at Hal Winer's new studio (BiCoastal Music in Ossining, New York) to try out the room and allow a few luminary recording engineers from the neighborhood to do the same. Mick Guzauski and Neil Dorfsman did the engineering honors and we recorded these nine tunes in roughly four hours. It all happened in the moment. Hal Winer mixed the session and here it is, a straight ahead blowing session. This is my first small band release in six years. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to capture the music with the help of Hal, Mick, Neil, John, Phil and Jay.

I picked songs that had lots of room for improvisation and conversation in them. It was nice to simply go into the studio without a rehearsal and blow. First impressions seem to frequently be the best ones. I think this was the case here. It was also great to revisit the bass clarinet. I'd like to play this instrument more were it not for the difficulty in amplification on live gigs and the precarious nature of carrying multiple reed instruments on airplanes these days.

And so, this is what we do; playing music in the moment, hoping to capture a good performance in a quality way without getting in the way of the natural flow of things. Hope you enjoy the music as much as we did!

Bob Mintzer

Selected Quotations {top}

Bob Mintzer is one of the premier tenor saxophonists of our time. His release on Art of Life Records is a testament to that fact.

In the Moment is a traditional-sounding, straight-ahead jazz quartet album, recorded at beautiful BiCoastal Music in Ossining, NY on December 16, 2004. The first cut, Straight Ahead is a hard swinging tune, just as the name implies. Mintzer is fast out of the blocks and does not disappoint with his signature post-Coltrane tenor sound. The second cut is a grooving Listen Here, originally made famous by Eddie Harris. The opening theme showcases both Minzter's bass clarinet and tenor - a very cool sound indeed.

Time After Time, the often-played standard by Styne & Cahn, is fresh and full of play here. It's a real treat to hear Bob Mintzer in this quartet setting - playing standards. This is something I have not tuned in to since wearing out my copy of Twin Tenors, which featured Mintzer and the late Michael Brecker - another "must have" in the collection of all modern tenor players.

The CD hits its stride with the Afro-Cuban influenced Aha, and the subtle and pretty Simple Song. What's the Word, played on bass clarinet here is recognizable from his popular Etude series. Originally played on tenor sax, it's always nice to hear Mintzer stretch out on bass clarinet, his second voice.

Play Pretty, Blues and Forgiveness round out this very listenable offering from the Bob Mintzer Quartet. The entire CD is easy on the ears - beautifully executed and recorded.

The Bob Mintzer Quartet CD In the Moment shows yet another side of the gifted tenor saxophonist, bass clarinetist, composer, arranger and educator.

The trio of Jay Anderson, Phil Markowitz and long-time collaborator John Riley should not go unmentioned. They provide a harmonic and rhythmic foundation, which allows Mintzer to rise above the section and beyond.

In short, I thoroughly enjoyed checking out this release from tenor saxman Bob Mintzer. I look forward to listening to it many more times. There are always treasures to find after the first listening. You will most certainly enjoy it as well.
Skip Spratt - SaxShed.com

It may be surprising to learn that six years have passed since saxophonist Bob Mintzer's last small-group solo release. Of course, he's been keeping busy for the past 15 years as a member of the tastefully catholic Yellowjackets, and even longer leading his swinging New York-based big band. For his fans-and there are justifiably many-the rare Mintzer-led quartet recording gives considerable cause for anticipation. There's nothing studio slick about this date. Aside from Mintzer's bass clarinet overdub on Eddie Harris' funky "Listen Here," no effects are employed. This is straight-ahead blowing done right. When a scant four hours of studio time nets nine tunes, the chemistry among players is tangible. Pianist Phil Markowitz, bassist Jay Anderson, and drummer John Riley have long comprised the rhythm section for Mintzer's large ensemble projects. Here they truly shine while enjoying the added flexibility and solo space indigenous to a quartet setting. Medium-up tempos, straight-ahead and swinging are the order of the day. Mintzer's opener, "Straight Ahead" (the man doesn't futz with titles), leads into the aforementioned funk of "Listen Here." A sprite reading of the standard "Time After Time," then heads south (of the border, that is) for a samba with "Aha." "What's the Word" is yet another medium-up swinger-a variant of "I Got Rhythm" showcasing Mintzer's virtuosic, balls-to-the-wall bass clarinet. Another of his many fortes is a plaintive, honest delivery on ballads. No other tenor sounds sweeter, a perfect sonic fit for the easy loping "Simple Song" (yet another futz-free title). Mintzer holds the star power to pitch this CD, but much of its success lies with his rhythm section. In particular, bassist Anderson swings from the rafters on every tune, digging in hard with a big, woody, well-recorded sound-driving the quartet into one solid groove after another.
James Rozzi - Jazziz Magazine

Fourteen years with the Yellowjackets is only a part of what saxophonist Bob Mintzer represents. He has also led his big band and smaller ensembles through jazz's mainstream time and again over a career that spans more than thirty years of contemporary jazz. His tenor saxophone gives this album a cool quality that turns each melody into a flexible vine that grows around and through the garden.

The occasion for this session was a gathering of friends; thus, the spontaneity and cohesiveness of their performance. The balance of the recording gives all four instrumental voices an equal presence. Piano and saxophone spend a lot of time moving side by side through melodic encounters that warm the room. December in Ossining, New York can put a chill in the air. Mintzer's quartet takes care of that right quick.

"Time After Time" and "Listen Here" ring familiar, while the other selections are original pieces. Pianist Phil Markowitz contributes "Forgiveness", which closes the session with a soulful ballad commentary.

Mintzer picks up his bass clarinet for "Blues", which lets everyone release with considerable ease. It?s the high point of the album. Here, the quartet finds a comfortable groove that won't quit. Clarinet and piano roll with the punches, while bass and drums drive solidly underneath. The ease with which Mintzer?s quartet takes to the blues makes you want to sit right down and create some lyrics for the song.

He also plays bass clarinet on "What's the Word", which provides a light melody that swings comfortably. A light, Latin groove shows up in "Play Pretty", which shares its gentle nature with a dance-like quality.

Mintzer delivers a fresh session with his quartet that reminds us how valuable good friends can be. He and his three musical partners share their Moment with a mainstream audience that can represent all aspects of the far-reaching jazz umbrella.
Jim Santella - All About Jazz

Bob Mintzer's high-voltage work as a big band player/arranger and as a highly charged member of The Yellowjackets tends to short-circuit recognition for his electrifying soloing skills as a straight-ahead combo player.

"In the Moment" is a timely reminder that this saxophonist, so universally praised for his arranging ingenuity and instrumental versatility among even the smoothest of smooth jazz grooves, is very much at home in a straight-ahead, blowing session with his own quartet.

Mintzer, who doubles on tenor and bass clarinet, immediately defines his album's vital aesthetic with the opening track, an original aptly titled, "Straight Ahead." His arrangements strike a well-calibrated balance between formal structure and flexibility for improvisation.

No mincer of emotions, he ranges from gruff-toned, soulful preaching on Eddie Harris's funky "Listen Here" to the rainbow variety of moods that beam through his half-dozen originals and two other selections.

What makes the session come alive is the palpable sense of compatibility it projects. Mintzer is obviously much at home with three longtime buddies from his New York-based big band: pianist Phil Markowitz, bassist Jay Anderson and drummer John Riley.

There was no rehearsal, nor was one needed for this fluent, unpretentious album. Recorded in only four hours or so, its spontaneity reflects the bright, fleeting spirit of music caught in the moment.
Owen McNally - The Hartford Courant

Then suddenly it hit him! These collected, maybe even lost sounds come through Bob Mintzer's horn with a new direction, a new lilt, a new freedom. With harmonies that sound like they could have come from decades forward, Bob Mintzer, Jay Anderson, Phil Markowitz and John Riley take on such classics as Eddie Harris' "Listen Here," Styne & Cahn's "Time After Time," and six Mintzer originals with such amazing creativity that they will knock your socks off! Mintzer's fresh riffs and spontaneous interaction with his band mates' groove, proves that his stimulating solos build a good feeling that has become widely appreciated and unpredictable. Not since John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins laid their saxophonics on the jazz world has a tenor saxophonist become so poised to step forward and offer a quartet that features so much virtuosity and brilliant musicality as offered by these four. The music has lots of room for improvisation and conversation as indicated by the amazing fleetness of Markowitz on piano and the articulate plucking by Anderson on acoustic bass. These blowing sessions not only showcase Mintzer trading fours and swinging with drummer John Riley, find him revisiting the bass clarinet on "What's The Word". This CD is definitely IN THE MOMENT and should be in your jazz collection. Five stars! SOTJ top picks: "Straight Ahead" and the ballad "Forgiveness."
Sounds of Timeless Jazz Web Site

Here's the Bob Mintzer disc you've been waiting for. Out on a break own from his stellar work with the Yellowjackets, and away from his big band commitments, Mintzer has put together a quartet release that spotlights his gorgeous tone and clever improvisations. Backed by a well sync'd rhythm section (from his big band) of Jay Anderson, Phil Markowitz and John Riley, Mintzer takes his tenor to task on Eddie Harris' finger snappin "Listen Here". Switching to bass clarinet on a couple of pieces, Mintzer blows down and dirty on "Blues", and switches to insouciance on "What's the Word", with it's Monk like rhythm work. Back to tenor on his original "Play Pretty", Mintzer and company make mainstream jazz flow like a spring river. Markowitz's "Forgiveness" is an ethereal treat in which the sympathetic band draws out some marvelous interplay and nuances. Persistently unheralded, Mintzer is a composer, arranger and musician that deserves more appreciation from fans looking for the next big thing.
George W. Harris - All About Jazz

Reedman Bob Mintzer is best known for two things: his work with big bands and his membership in top smooth jazz group, the Yellowjackets. That's why his latest CD is such a surprise. "In the Moment" is a quartet album filled with music that's, as the title of the first tune suggests, "Straight Ahead." Mintzer's considerable skills as a composer are on display, from the slinky "Simple Song" to the catchy, Latin-flavored "Play Pretty." He also takes the opportunity to bring out his bass clarinet for some earthy solos on "What's the Word" and "Blues." When he departs from his own songs, Mintzer makes a wise choice in revisiting Eddie Harris's funk classic, "Listen Here." Pianist Phil Markowitz contributes a beautiful ballad, "Forgiveness," that features some of his, and Mintzer's, most soulful playing along with gorgeous percussion by John Riley.
Ron Netsky - Rochester City Newspaper

There seem to be two groups of listeners who gravitate to the music of saxophonist Bob Mintzer. One the one hand, he is one of the most prolific and esteemed Big Band leaders and arrangers in jazz history, a graduate himself of the famed Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra and a frequent nominee for big band Grammies. One the other hand, he is a 15-year veteran of the Grammy-winning, smooth/funk quartet, The Yellowjackets. It's not surprising, then, that Mintzer's name is not often connected with small ensemble, straight-ahead post bop material. Yet, it is this "third face" of Bob Mintzer that shines on his new quartet release, In the Moment (Art of Life Records), a recording that should readily expand the fan base of this eclectic tenorman.

Bob Mintzer can trace the development of his diverse talents to the time he spent listening to records, visiting jazz clubs, and playing clarinet and saxophone as a youth in New Rochelle, NY. Attending music school, he spent hours practicing, then moved on to composing, arranging, songwriting, jamming, "doing all the things that are involved in the learning process." His first big job forshadowed his work as a big band leader and arranger-playing Monday nights at the Village Vanguard in the Thad Jones and Mel Lewis Big Band. From 1978 he led his own big bands, melding traditional lyricism and swing with the more unpredictable character of modern music, and playing with such diverse artists as Jaco Pastorius, Louis Belleson, Art Blakey, Tito Puente, James Taylor, Aretha Franklin and the New York Philharmonic. He joined the Yellowjackets in the early 1990s, and his thirteen Grammy nominations are nearly equally distributed across big band and contemporary jazz categories. In the Moment fits into neither group but is no less a demonstration of Mintzer's chops as performer, arranger and composer.

As a modern mainstream recording, In the Moment has few surprises but many delights. Mintzer's first quartet recording in six years, the 7 originals and 2 covers are firmly rooted in the bop tradition, less dazzling as innovations than as demonstrations of virtuosity and collaboration. For partners Mintzer features his Big Band rhythm section, Phil Markowitz on piano, Jay Anderson on bass, and John Riley on drums, and their long-term association is reflected in their telepathic interplay as well as glowing solo turns. Dubbed "one of the most sensitive, lyrical and inventive piano players of all time" by early employer Chet Baker, Phil Markowitz is a regular compatriot of Dave Liebman as well as Bob Mintzer and a highly respected composer who provides many of the album's finest moments and the glorious closing tune, "Forgiveness." Bassist Jay Anderson may get more attention as a member of the Mintzer Big Band than for his decade anchoring the Lynne Arriale Trio, but his lyrical play with that ensemble is close at hand with the Mintzer Quartet. Former student of Joe Morello and Woody Herman alum, drummer John Riley has appeared with a Who's Who in jazz and is a member of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. Unobstrusive throughout the recording, he nevertheless is always in the right place with the right time.

The two covers appear back to back on the second and third tracks. On Eddie Harris' "Listen Here," Mintzer's gruff vibrato sounds like two horns, especially in the higher register where a slight squeal gives it an edge. Markowitz lets his left hand hold down the fort while his right runs off to the nearest playground. "Time After Time" (Styne and Cahn) is a comfortable post bop journey through a classic tune, Markowitz' clear articulation and shifting forms keeping the interest high in the piano's interlude.

Mintzer penned six of the nine tracks. The opening tune is titled "Straight Ahead" but the melody takes a few twists and turns from the first verse, sax sailing over Anderson's brisk bassline and constant tingling from Riley's percussion; Anderson shines with his heavy-handed pizzicato solo. On "Aha," Mintzer's show of horn power, along with the harmonies woven by bass and piano, give the impression that the Big Band has come along for the ride. Even Riley seems to have grown a larger trapset. The aptly titled "Simple Song" starts out as a lovely ballad, the sax providing its own lyrics while Markowitz treads lightly and brightly over Anderson's bouncy bass; Mintzer provides more swing than sentiment on the final chorus. "What's the Word" has the swinging acrobatics of an old bop tune, suggesting a date with Charlie Parker. Here Mintzer plays bass clarinet, giving the tune a woody resonance.

On the danceable "Play Pretty," everyone does. The final chorus proves more interesting as Mintzer turns a few phrases inside out to see what will shake loose, pulling it back together before Riley's final tingle. Mintzer selects the perfect horn to carry the dark and whining melody of "Blues"--nothing speaks of a deep bottomed-out blues with more authority and sympathy than the bass clarinet. As he slides around the storyline, Markowitz wails his own blue theme, and Mintzer returns with more twists and turns, proving that the big horn has more flexibility than is typically demonstrated.

Markowitz introduces his "Forgiveness" with some hollow rumbles, with sheets of shimmer rising from Riley's cymbals. Mintzer takes the melody on a graceful ride, buoyed by Riley's rolling mallets and long decays. Piano and bass come to the foreground creating a majestic and dark tapestry while Riley continues to contrast deep rolls with high-pitched shimmers. Relative to the other tracks, this exquisite finale has a more 21st century shape, and Mintzer rises to the challenge with some of his most searching and penetrating lines of the set.

In the Moment-which aptly describes the collaborative zeal of this quartet-serves as a good reminder that, when he isn't blowing big band charts or smooth funk with the Yellowjackets, Bob Mintzer is a great straight-ahead tenorman. Good stories well told, even with familiar plots and themes, make for good ensemble efforts and, if not challenging to the ear, are nevertheless thoroughly engaging. In a sea of sax quartet releases, In the Moment rises well above the crowd.
Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor - Jazz Police

Horror writer Stephen King once wrote that you can drink vintage wine out of a piece of fine crystal or out of a Flintstones jelly glass. The drink is them same but there is a difference. In the realm of mainstream jazz, there?s a similar difference between playing all the right notes and actually meaning them. Given the number of mainstream records released every year it's a challenge to separate those that speak the truth from those that simply speak. Saxophonist Bob Mintzer's In the Moment is a clear case of a fine drink in an equally fine glass.

More often than not, when not recording and touring with the contemporary Yellowjackets, Mintzer's own projects have focused on larger ensembles, like Old School: New Lessons (MCG Jazz, 2006) and Live at MCG with Kurt Elling (MCG Jazz, 2004), both with his longstanding big band. In the Moment keeps things small and simple, with a crack quartet featuring pianist Phil Markowitz, bassist Jay Anderson and drummer John Riley. It may not rattle any cages, but it's a thoroughly captivating set of Mintzer originals, with one tune by Markowitz and a couple of covers thrown in for good measure.

There's plenty of straight-ahead swing on the aptly titled "Straight Ahead", with Anderson and Riley sticking to traditional roles but remaining responsive in ways that are more often felt than heard. Anderson also takes a well-constructed solo that begs the question of why, when he's appeared on over two hundred recordings since the late '70s, is he not better known outside of musician circles?

Elsewhere Mintzer mines modal territory ("Aha"), gentle balladry ("Simple Song"), mid-tempo "I Got Rhythm" changes ("What's the Word") and light bossa ("Play Pretty"). Markowitz is a player with an encyclopedic knowledge of the tradition and just enough zest to set it subtly on edge now and again. Economical without sacrificing energy, he provides meaningful pushes that underscore Mintzer, while being equally adept at solos with substance.

The quartet swings comfortably on the Styne/Cahn standard "Time After Time" and brings out some soulful funk on the Eddie Harris staple, "Listen Here". Mintzer's "Blues" is, indeed, a conventional albeit soulful blues, with Mintzer making a difference by leading the quartet on bass clarinet.

Mintzer manages to combine a stylistic physicality, regardless of context, with a thoughtful approach that avoids overstatement. Lyrical, lithely swinging and with nothing to prove Mintzer's In the Moment makes it clear that there?s plenty of room for unassuming straight-ahead jazz, as long as it's played from the head and heart.
John Kelman - All About Jazz

This album came about, as the title says, "In the Moment." Saxophonist Bob Mintzer, bassist Jay Anderson, pianist Phil Markowitz and drummer John Riley went to a new recording studio near New York City to provide sounds for a test and demonstration of equipment. The rhythm players work with Mintzer in his big band and have performed with him in many settings, so they were familiar with each other to say the least. After four hours of playing, the result was nine tracks that seem much more rehearsed than that. Songs range from the classic "Time After Time" to Eddie Harris's "Listen Here" to six Mintzer originals. Of those, there is a pretty, and aptly named, "Simple Song," and there is "Blues," that features Mintzer on bass clarinet, one of his strengths. The spontaneity of this album in some ways defines jazz and the quality of the play makes it a success.
Bob Karlovits - Pittsburgh Tribune



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