Saxophonist, bass clarinetist, electronic artist, composer and arranger Bob Mintzer has quietly crafted a career to be the envy of anyone in the business. Probably most recognized as a 15-year member of the jazz super-group Yellowjackets, his 23-year span of recording self-penned big band compositions, on the DMP and now MCG Jazz labels, has led to his numerous charts being performed by high school and college ensembles throughout the world. In addition, Mintzer has been nominated for 13 Grammy awards and is the recipient of one in the best large jazz ensemble category for his Homage to Count Basie CD. What most people don’t know is throughout his career he has recorded wonderful straight-ahead jazz recordings. In The Moment is yet another one of these gems.
Originally recorded at the end of 2004, Mintzer is joined by some of the most talented and sympathetic artists of the day. On this disc, as in so many others, super accompanist Phil Markowitz’s piano playing continues to make the case for his being one of the most overlooked great players of the day. The aptly titled "Straight Ahead" is a case in point. His able, steady and always insightful harmonic backing weaves beds of sound with plenty of space for Mintzer’s excursions. Markowitz never gets in the way and his radar ears seem to know which way Mintzer will go even before the saxophonist himself arrives. Of other important note is his use of polytonality on "What’s The Word."
As a tandem, bassist Jay Anderson and drummer John Riley have tons of chops and intellect enough to know when to push and when to lay back. Their insistent vamping behind Markowitz on Eddie Harris’ often overlooked soul jazz classic "Listen Here" is outstanding. They push, yet give Markowitz space to build his solo before Mintzer comes in to demonstrate his thorough knowledge of the genre.
Where Mintzer really shines, however is on the ballad "Simple Song," and the standard "Time After Time." On "Simple" his playing is heartfelt, direct and without flash, preferring to tell a story in the best jazz tradition. His lines flow, are endlessly creative and so free-flowing one never doubts he could have, should he have wished, taken this one tune to Coltrane-ish length proportions without repeating himself. On "Time" Mintzer adds to the above with displays of virtuosity that exhibit why he’s been such an important member of Yellowjackets. Tying his solo together through the rejoining of motivic fragments that spin out into long chains of tightly wound abstraction, Mintzer showcases performance ability worthy of distinction and 13 Grammy nominations.
If this had been recorded in the 1950s or 1960s it would have appeared on Blue Note. While Art of Life Records is a good young label, you’ll have to search to find this disc. The work, however, will not be wasted.