Dictionaries define the word "Dynamo", in pretty much the same way: they all agree that in essence, the term is most synonomous with energy. Perhaps that's why pianist, composer, bandleader Eric Mintel, chose the name for the title of the CD you're holding. Dynamo and energy are not misnomers when used to relate to the Eric Mintel quartet's approach to jazz_in fact, the group's versatile leader has also performed "energetically" outside of the jazz genre. Musicians whose forte is jazz, are often capable of performing European Classical music-in fact, most jazz musicians were introduced to the classics when they began their studies. Eric has even performed his own classical work, Millennium Suite, with several symphony orchestras over the last five years.
I've been a fan of the quartet for at least a half dozen years:and when attending the group's jazz concerts, I've picked up strains of the classics, and heard notations of other geres of music in their delivery. I don't recall any idiom of music being offended during these blendings-in fact I saw many smiles and nods of approval by patrons who were quite aware of this synergy.
The Eric Mintel Quartet is a tight knit ensemble, but still always seems to have fun while weaving intricate rhythmic patterns collectively, or during individual solos. The group often presents a pleasant dichotomy, in that it is sometimes reminisent of the Modern Jazz Quartet, which played with great precision and controlled passion:and on the other hand, it also brings to mind the exploratory tightropes often walked by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, when Paul Desmond was a mainstay. All the aforementioned, are some of the reasons Eric and his quartet are in demand. Still another reason is the leader himself:Eric may be said to be a workaholic, but I prefer to believe that he simply understands that he is the leader of a jazz quartet, and needs to keep the group working...so he works hard at it. He is satisfied with the three capable men he works with and they with him, as their leader.
Eric has been a bandleader since 1993, and has fronted his present unit for four years. Prior to this group, he and one of the former band's played at the White House, at the invitation of then President Clinton. Eric has performed at the Kennedy Center on several occasions with his present group; played numerous college and univeristy dates;and conducts workshops for students from elementary level through college level. He has also taken secular music to the church and made a joyful noise there via instrumental jazz and original choral music. Add to this performance-list, an assortment of bookings at other venues along the Eastern seaborad and beyond. As alluded to earlier, Eric, the PR man(he also puts together a quarterly newsletter);the booking agent, and the musicians/bandleader are one in the same. (He should be commisioned to conduct a class for jazz musicians, on how to aquire work, get media exposure, and handle their buisness affairs. Quite a number of jazz musicians wiat for work to come their way-and a good percentage of them don't have recent head shots or up to date bios. When attempting to make a living as a jazz musician, one cannot afford to leave anything to chance.)
This CD consists of 12 pieces of music, nine of which were composed by Eric. One of the tunes, "That Happy Feeling", is significant because it was inspired by his wife and the birth of their daughter Tess Mariah Mintel, who is now two years old. Dynamo, the title of this CD, gets a treatment by the quartet. Eric explains that the infectious, foot pattin', head shakin' ditty is a detour from the direction in which the group's music is usually headed...But the tune was so unusual, that is wound up carrying the title for the CD's entire body of work.
The inclusion of Cole Porter's "What is This Thing Called Love", didn't hurt any, nor did the addition of the Harold Arlen/EY Harburg classic "Over The Rainbow". The quartet even does a rendition of a rarely heard Brubeck composition called "Broadway Bossa Nova". Eric's compositions neither blink nor blanch in the face of this timeless material.
More could have been said in this piece about the talents of pianist Eric Mintel, saxophonist Neil Wetzel, bassist Dave Antonow and drummer Jeremy Berberian and about how well they execute individually and collectively. But no matter what is offered here about them, you-the listener-are the final arbiter. Willi Shakespear advised in one of his works(and I'm paraphrasing here), that when one is releating an already pleasing story, one should refrian from gilding the lily, or adding perfume to the violet. Perhaps after hearing this CD, you will simply agree that the quality went in before the name of the group went on.
Bob Perkins has a distinquished 40 year career as a broadcast and print media journalist. He is currently hear Mon-Thur on WRTI 90.1 FM in Philadelphia and on the web at WRTI.org. Bob was recently inducted into the Philadelphia Broadcasters Hall of Fame. He resides in Philadelphia with his wife Sheila.