Bob Mintzer Big Band

Live at MCG

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Interestingly, Live at MCG is the very first live recording by Bob Mintzer's big band, a group that has been together for over a decade. Recorded at the Manchester Craftsman's Guild in Pittsburgh, this date is also the first pairing of vocalist Kurt Elling with the band, and it's a doozy of a gig. The players include bassist Rufus Reid, pianist Phil Markowitz, and trumpeter Michael Philip Mossman, just to name a few of its 16 members. Mintzer's charts are high on drama, rich in rhythmic interplay, and very, very tight. There is nothing extraneous, because the excitement is what he draws out of the music itself. While everything here is exciting, deftly executed, and wonderfully lyrical, the three vocal tunes are clearly the set's highlights, including "My Foolish Heart," a tune that has become one of Elling's signature vehicles, and the Elling-Mintzer collaboration "All Is Quiet," on which Mintzer scales the band back to a quartet. But it is on a brand new chart for Herbie Hancock's "Eye of the Hurricane" that everything here takes off. Mintzer's own solo is one of his most inspired, and Markowitz's modulations are startling. But Elling moves his own truly original practice of vocalese into the stratosphere somewhere, making this the album's most inspired performance. Any way you cut it, this is a winner.

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