Recorded in 1983 and previously only released in Japan on Cheetah, Papa Lips is Bob Mintzer's third album as a leader. A step ahead of the rather sterile production of his previous album for the label Source (both are now available in the U.S. on CD courtesy of the Elore Records imprint), Papa Lips features a stellar band playing a program comprised almost entirely of Mintzer tunes, the lone exception is the standard "I Hear a Rhapsody." The band here is stellar and includes in various places Michael and Randy Brecker, Lew Soloff, Don Grolnick, David Sanborn, Will Lee, Peter Erskine and Marvin Stamm, among others. The material is more Latin in flavor, and the arrangements are less funk-oriented than its predecessor's. The sound is still quite slick, but the material is stronger and there are no vocal performances this time out. The remarkable thing here is that the Michael and Randy Brecker and David Sanborn were not particularly well known as big band players at this time, but their execution of these often complex charts is remarkable -- check the title cut that opens the set with a fine Randy Brecker solo; it's knotty and multi-textured with colors coming from all over the tonal spectrum. "Lazy Day," a gospel flavored soul tune for big band is reminiscent of Thad Jones' and Mel Lewis' orchestra, with fine solo s from Mintzer on tenor and Grolnick on piano. Other standouts include "Latin Dance," with a great Sanborn flight on alto, and the remake of "Mr. Fonebone." It appeared on Source as well, but is much faster and more aggressive here, and Lee is less busy than Jaco Pastorius was. "I Hear a Rhapsody" contains an excellent, deeply emotional solo by Michael Brecker, though the tune itself is a bit flowery for this recording. In sum, however, Papa Lips is a fine record; it is still slick -- but that's how they made jazz records in the '80s -- but it's sheer musicality, muscle, and sophistication make it an excellent listen.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek