Saxophonist Bob Mintzer is a hard-working musician. Between all that he does as a member of the famed fusion group Yellowjackets, and with the WDR Big Band, Mintzer keeps himself quite busy and has for years. This past Friday, some of that work that Mintzer has done with the latter group was released in the form of the collective’s new album, Soundscapes. The 10-song record — released through MCG Jazz — is a presentation that will appeal widely to jazz fans. That is due in no small part to the record’s featured arrangements. The arrangements in question will be discussed shortly. The liner notes that accompany the album add to the enjoyment of those arrangements. They will be discussed a little later. The songs’ sequencing rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the record’s presentation. All things considered, they make the album a successful, enjoyable new offering from all involved that any jazz fan will enjoy.
Soundscapes, the new album from Bob Minzter and the WDR Big Band is a presentation that will appeal widely to any jazz fan. That is due in no small part to the album’s featured arrangements. The arrangements are all original works from Mintzer and company. They are also diverse. According to Mintzer, that diversity is intentional. “My mission in creating the music here was to make a warm, beautiful sound, with the occasional smattering of complexity amongst singable melodies, interlocking rhythmical counterpoint, and an amalgam of grooves from around the world,” said Mintzer in a recent interview about the album. He added, “There is no particular theme, no singular message, other than to highlight the great artistry of the band and use composition to create a soundscape of color, texture, and sparkle, with the primary focus being teamwork, empathy and celebration.” Those statements are illustrated and echoed throughout each of the featured arrangements. From the modern sounds of ‘One Music,’ to the more Afro-Latin-tinged approach and sound of ‘Canyon Winds’ to the more relaxed, vintage approach and sound of ‘Whack’ and more, the record features a diverse range of sounds. The use of the keyboards and bass in ‘Whack’ goes back to the days of Weather Report. Meanwhile, the smooth sound of the sax and horns in ‘New Look’ is more of a smooth big band type composition. There really is just so much for jazz fans to appreciate from the group in every one of the featured arrangements, as is shown here. The foundation that the arrangements’ diversity creates is reason enough for audiences to hear this album. It is just one reason for audiences to give the album a chance. The liner notes that accompany the album add to its appeal.
The liner notes that fill the album’s companion booklet are thorough to say the very least. The background that they present for each song serves well to create even more appreciation for the songs. Case in point is the background offered for ‘the Conversation.’ According to the information on this song, the title has nothing to do with a general conversation, but rather the musical conversation – that back and forth – between the WDR Big Band’s horn section and guest percussionist Marcio Doctor.Mintzer points out the intentional Afro-Latin approach taken in this song, in the liner notes and the role that Doctor played in the song.
The liner notes for ‘Whack’ find Mintzer pointing out that most of this arrangement apparently came about through a certain improvisational manner. Mintzer goes so far as to call the process experimental as he discusses the arrangement’s creation. Additionally, he praises the musicians for their abilities and what they bring to the arrangement in whole. That and more that is noted here shows in its own way, the importance of the album’s liner notes.
Yet another example of the importance of the album’s liner notes is the explanation of ‘Herky Jerky.’ Mintzer opens up here and admits that the arrangement is based lightly on a certain Gershwin hit. That song will be left for audiences to discover on their own so that they are not directly influenced to listen for that song here. However, when audiences hear the song for themselves, they will definitely hear the influence in the staccato style notes (also addressed in the liner notes) played here. This is yet another example of the importance of the liner notes featured with Soundscapes. That is because of the background that it offers. That background (just as with the background offered for the other songs) encourages audiences’ engagement and entertainment even more, and succeeds in doing so, too. Keeping that in mind, there is no doubt in reading any of the liner notes, that they play a pivotal part to the album’s presentation. Even being as important as they are to the album’s presentation, they are just one more part of what makes the album succeed. The songs’ sequencing rounds out its most important elements.
Soundscapes’ sequencing is important to note because of the way in which it ensures the songs’ energies are balanced. The relaxed vibe of the album’s opener, ‘A Reprieve’ is one of only three points throughout the album in which those energies pull back. From there, the record’s energy remains relatively high up until the much more subdued, late entry, ‘One Look’ that the album pulls back. It comes at an interesting point, considering that the album’s energy increases again in the penultimate entry, ‘One Music’ before the album closes out on another relaxed note, ‘VM.’ It might have made a little more sense to place ‘New Look’ a little sooner in the record’s 42-minute run. That aside, it still does help to break things up and keep things interesting in turn. Keeping that in mind, the album ensures in its own way, audiences’ engagement through the impact of the sequencing on the album’s energies. When this is considered along with the role of the album’s liner notes and its featured arrangements, the whole makes the album a strong, successful new offering from Mintzer and company.
Bob Mintzer and the WDR Big Band Cologne’s new album, Soundscapes, is a positive new offering from the collective. It is a work that will appeal widely to jazz fans across the board. That is due in no small part to the album’s featured arrangements. The arrangements are diverse in their energies, sounds, and stylistic approaches. That diversity is reason enough for audiences to hear the album. The background that the liner notes (another of the album’s most important elements) offers, leads to enhanced appreciation for the arrangements. That increased appreciation also leads to more engagement in the album. The songs’ sequencing puts the finishing touch to the album’s presentation. It does that by keeping the record’s energy running fluidly from one song to the next while also keeping the stylistic approach and sounds of the arrangements changing from one to the next. It brings everything full circle and completes the album’s presentation, ensuring once and for all, the album’s success. It makes the album unquestionably one more of the year’s top new jazz records. Soundscapes is available now. More information on this and other titles from MCG Jazz is available online at:
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