September 29, 2023

Bob Mintzer Bob Mintzer
Speaks about “Peace ‘Round”
by Paula Edelstein

A round begins with the statement of a theme by a single voice. As the theme is passed from one voice to the next, what began as a solitary voice grows into a rich chorus. It is through song that many of our most cherished traditions are passed along. Might it be possible then for a yearning for peace to start with a single melody? It’s heartening to be reminded that there is incredible power in one voice. Let it begin with a song or an idea that is picked up by a neighbor and passed on to a friend. Let that single voice swell into a harmonious chorus that gains strength with each repetition. During this season, rich in tradition, we celebrate the birth of Christ who was the embodiment of peace. We also celebrate the vitality of a single voice joined with that of other’s to reshape our world. We humbly offer Peace Round as our wish for this and every season. – The Yellowjackets – reprinted from the liner notes.

P.E.: Peace ‘Round is now released worldwide on Heads Up International but had previously been available exclusively from The Yellowjackets’ website. Did recording a Christmas collection pose any unique challenges for the group?

Bob M: The challenge was in trying to recreate these Christmas songs in a way that reflected the general philosophy of the band. But, it wasn’t all that difficult to be quite honest because Christmas songs in general are some of the greatest songs ever written. They lend themselves to improvisation, the harmonic structures are very interesting and it was a real pleasure to work with these songs.

P.E.: The Yellowjackets have enjoyed tremendous success over the years and are now offering your first holiday recording? What does the spirit of the holiday season mean to you?

Bob M: Oh, a time for getting together with family and friends, and as the title suggests, a time for self-reflection, re-evaluating our relationships with people and our life as they apply to the community called Earth.

P.E.: With Russell Ferrante on piano, Jimmy Haslip on bass and Marcus Baylor on drums, you glow in the lead spotlight on several songs including “Deck The Halls,” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” Now that you’ve put your signature stamp on these holiday favorites, how does reworking songs such as these impact your ability to listen to them in their original traditional setting?

Bob M: Oh, it’s always different to listen to a different point of view.

P.E.: Did you compare the various jazz saxophone charts that are available for these songs before arriving at your own rendition?

Bob M: No. I didn’t really do very much research at all; I just kind of took my perception of the original tune and added to it.

P.E.: What do you do to prepare before a performance – meditate, interact with the audience, rehearse, etc. How do you prepare?

Bob M: We generally hang out with each other, talk, have a good time, get connected on some sort of emotional and friendship basis. Our playing is an extension of that so we’re kind of being ourselves and we go out there and are lucky enough to be playing music together.

P.E.: You also lead the Bob Mintzer Big Band and recently released a stellar offering with special guest Kurt Elling. Are you leaning toward more in the big band format than with The Yellowjackets?

Bob M: I enjoy everything. I like a variety of doing different things. It’s the same musical philosophy that Count Basie’s band – it was a role model for my big band.

P.E.: It’s so nice to hear the beautiful voice of Jean Baylor on “The First Noel.” Will there be any holiday concerts in support of PEACE ROUND this year and will Jean Baylor be featured in those performances?

Bob M: Quite possibly.

P.E.: We appreciate your taking the time to talk with us Bob. Thanks for the great offering Peace ‘Round and we look forward to hearing you over the holiday season with the Yellowjackets.

Bob M: Thanks Paula.

P.E.: Keep Up On The Yellowjackets’ happenings at www.yellowjackets.com.