A session that is continuously changing through richness and structure

Bob Mintzer Big Band, New York Voices – Meeting Of Minds – MCG JAZZ MCGJ1045 61:03****:

(Bob Mintzer Big Band – Bob Mintzer – leader, tenor saxophone, flute; New York Voices – Kim Nazarian; Lauren Kinhan; Darmon Meader; Peter Eldridge)

Meeting Of Minds is a re-imagining of some of the more notable compositions of the Great American Songbook of the 1930s and 1940s through the lens of the cracking big band of Bob Mintzer combined with the slick harmonization of the New York Voices. The result is an album filled with memorable and stylishly shaped music.

Portrait of Bob Mintzer, by Christian Wurm

Bob Mintzer, Photo by Christian Wurm

It is no small feat combining the intricate four-part harmony of the NYV as envisioned by Damon Meader, with the multi-layered charts of the big band  mostly created by Bob Mintzer. But as the opening instrumental bars of “Autumn Leaves” gradually gives way to the integration of the NYV, it is clear that something special was underway. Cole Porter wrote many compositions associated with this era such as “I Concentrate On You” which he penned for the film Broadway Melody Of 1940. With a slight Latin lilt, the number begins with lead vocalist Peter Eldridge setting the stage with his easy flow, before baritone saxophonist Roger Rosenberg digs in with his big tone. Some additional lyrics by Lauren Kinhan gives the tune an ever revamped form.

There are two instruments in this album, the first of which is “I Want To Be Happy” written by Vincent Youmans and Irving Caesar for the 1925 Broadway musical No, No, Nanette. Bob Mintzer’s arrangement is multi-layered with many harmonic interactions, but structured in such a way as to give trumpeter Scott Wendholt and pianist Phil Markowitz plenty of space to test their chops. Drummer John Riley keeps the number flowing at a brisk pace with some clever playing. The other feature is an original by Bob Mintzer entitled “Weird Blues”. The arrangement is driven by a strong bass line from Jay Anderson with a couple a tasty solos from Mintzer on tenor saxophone and baritone saxophonist Roger Rosenberg.

New York Voices, Being Silly

New York Voices

Vocal groups that performed with big bands in the 1930s and 1940s became quite popular with Tommy Dorsey using The Pied Pipers, and Glenn Miller with The Modernaires. Even after the war, Artie Shaw found favour with a close harmony vocal group called Mel Tormé and The Mel-Tones and Stan Kenton used The Pastels. In the 1950s stand alone vocal groups were formed such as The Blue Stars, which evolved into The Swingle Singers which begat The Double Six of Paris All these were the forerunners of The New York Voices and The Manhattan Transfer.

However the NY Voices uses more structured arrangements of four-part harmony which are blended with the big band in a far more complex way than had been the case in these earlier vocal/band groupings.    So whether it’s  Hoagy Carmichael’s evocative ballad “I Get Along Without You Very Well” that pulls at your heart-strings via Peter Eldridge’s lead vocal, or the back beat driven “Old Devil Moon” with Lauren Kinhan’s out front vocal , or the deliciously inventive additional lyrics offered by Lauren Kinhan on “Speak Low”, there is a special intoxicating blend of voices and big band arrangements that deliver a session that is continuously changing through richness and structure.

TrackList: Autumn Leaves; I Concentrate On You; I Want To Be Happy; I Get Along Without You Very Well; The Way You Look Tonight; You Go To My Head; Old Devil Moon; Weird Blues; Speak Low; I’ll Remember April

—Pierre Giroux

MCG Jazz