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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Papa Lips

Explore EXP 0020




1. Papa Lips
2. Lazy Day
3. I Hear a Rhapsody
4. Latin Dance
5. Truth
6. Mr Fonebone
Bob Mintzer – Tenor sax, flute, piccolo, clarinet
David Sanborn – Soprano sax, alto sax
Michael Brecker – Tenor sax, flute
Marvin Stamm, Lew Soloff, Randy Brecker, Laurie Frink - Trumpets
Pete Yellin - Alto sax, flute
Lawrence Feldman – Tenor sax, flute, piccolo
Roger Rosenberg - Baritone sax, flute
Dave Bargeron, Bob Smith, Keith O'Quinn – Trombones
Don Grolnick - Piano
Dave Taylor - Bass trombone (tracks 1, 2, 4-6)
George Moran – Bass trombone (track 3)
Carla Poole – Flute (track 6)
Will Lee – Bass (tracks 1, 3, 5)
Tom Barney – Bass (tracks 2, 4, 6)
Peter Erskine – Drums
Frankie Malabe – Congas (tracks 1, 4)


This album was recorded in 1983 but has apparently not been released before. Reedman Bob Mintzer formed this big band in 1982 and it originally played at a Greenwich Village club owned by the Brecker Brothers. The Breckers are on this album, along with many other starry names. The CD’s title is a reference to Bob Mintzer's nickname.

Bob Mintzer is probably best know from his long stint with the Yellowjackets – a group which, because it is pigeon-holed as a jazz-fusion band, tends to be ignored by critics who think themselves superior - even though Mintzer is a fine player, arranger and composer. He has played in the big bands of Buddy Rich and Thad Jones/Mel Lewis and recorded several big-band albums under his own leadership, so he has plenty of experience of this genre. In fact the music here is very much in the mainstream tradition of big bands, which is not always a good thing. With such first-class musicians in the band, there’s no bad playing but Mintzer sometimes falls into a conventional style of big-band arranging. One trouble with having so many musicians is that you feel obliged to find things for them to do. This too often means that sections are dealt with en bloc, creating a monolithic sound which leaves little breathing space except when the soloists are allowed to stretch out – and even then they usually have to be accompanied by backing riffs. Another drawback is that the album lasts barely more than 42 minutes which, in this day and age, seems like short change.

Despite these faults, there’s a lot of good music on this CD. The title track is a catchy number, with strong solos from trombonist Dave Bargeron and trumpeter Randy Brecker. Mintzer himself states the theme for Lazy Day and plays a solo which mixes relaxation with passion. Mintzer’s arrangement leaves plenty of space and uses dynamics skillfully. I Hear a Rhapsody is the only non-original tune on the album, featuring Michael Brecker’s deft tenor sax.

Latin Dance suggests bright exotic rhythms but the track fails to evoke the necessary lightness of touch, tending to sound ponderous rather than danceable, although Dave Sanborn’s alto solo floats cheerfully in the air. Bob Mintzer is spotlighted in the meditative Truth, proving that he is a major tenor-saxist who deserves more attention. The album ends with Mr Fonebone, again displaying the leader’s skills.

Re-reading this review, I realise I may have over-emphasised its failings and not made enough of its positive qualities, which include faultless section playing, inventive arrangements, enjoyable solos and lustrous recorded sound. I guess that I’m just looking for a little more individuality.

Tony Augarde

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