Give Bob Mintzer his just due: Since recording his debut at the helm of a large ensemble in 1983, the tenor saxophonist, composer and arranger has churned out 20 big-band releases, making him one of the most durable big-band leaders of the past three decades. With Get Up!, Mintzer offers a full-bore treatment of 1960s- and ’70s-era funk, R&B and rock — a trio of styles that have long informed his orchestral work.
Mintzer’s signature big-band sound — dueling woodwind and brass sections that come at the listener like a steamroller at full throttle — is the perfect template for covers of tunes by Sam & Dave (“I Thank You”), Sly & The Family Stone (“Sing a Simple Song”) and the Isley Brothers (“It’s Your Thing”). With a gut-punching rhythm-section backbeat magnifying the swaggering muscularity of the saxes, trombones and trumpets, Mintzer and his 16-piece unit bring a fun-loving spirit to the nine-track program. To ensure that the funk quotient remains high, the leader invited keyboardist Russell Ferrante and drummer William Kennedy — both members of the Yellowjackets — to lead a rhythm team that also includes Will Lee on bass.
Its slow-grind tempo and bluesy overtones make “It’s Your Thing” one of the date’s most likeable outings. Mintzer surrenders the tenor spotlight to the underrated Bob Malach, who renders an idiom-perfect solo with the requisite grunts and growls. Trumpeter John Daversa’s solo is less fire-breathing and nudges the arrangement back into a more jazz-oriented setting. “Civil War,” one of five Mintzer originals included on the disc, highlights the sax section’s reading of complex unison lines. The surprising inclusion of Wayne Shorter’s “Elegant People” throws the listener a curveball, opening with punchy bass-trombone inflections, airy flute work, muted trumpets and a light-treading rhythmic pulse before segueing into a hard-driving funk statement.
In Mintzer’s quest to keep the big-band sound revitalized and relevant, Get Up! stands as another triumph. —Mark Holston