I know I’ve been trending a lot lately toward international big bands with my Jazz Friday posts, but lately I am just really digging hearing what musicians in other countries are doing with jazz. This week I’ve got one more: Germany’s WDR Big Band. These are some of Germany’s finest jazz musicians led by Bob Mintzer of the Yellowjackets. WDR has been around since 1947 and playing jazz since 1957. They have a lot of material and an active YouTube channel. Their most recent album is a collaboration with the Yellowjackets and does a fantastic job of getting the jazz fusion sound into a big band’s power. “Downtown” (Apple Music) (YouTube) is my favorite track on that new album.
I would also like to point out the Bob Mintzer arrangement of Neil Hefti’s “Cute” on their Basie tribute video. (It is the first song, so no excuse not to listen to it.) When I was in 7th grade playing in my first jazz band, it was in the middle of playing “Cute” that I first experienced what it means to swing. It was the beginning of my love affair with playing jazz, so that song is near and dear to me. Mintzer’s arrangement modernizes “Cute” while still holding onto what makes it such a precious gem.