Northampton Press

Sunday, March 29, 2020

A ‘Charlie Brown’ jazz concert

Friday, December 20, 2019 by GEORGE VANDOREN Special to The Press in Focus

The Eric Mintel Quartet returns for a sold-out performance in the “Jazz Upstairs” series, 7:30 p.m. Dec.20, Rodale Community Room, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.

The quartet presents “Charlie Brown Holiday Jazz.”

Doors open at 7 p.m. for a free buffet, included with the ticket price admission. A cash bar is available.

Mintel is famously a fan of Dave Brubeck.

“I first heard Brubeck when I was 14-years-old: ‘Take 5’ and ‘Blue Rondo a la Turk.’ That’s when the light bulb went on.

“I’m largely self-taught. I only took lessons for about a year. I would come to a beginning piano lesson playing Brubeck stuff. I’m a product of reverse engineering. I just learned so much on the bandstand.”

Later in life, Mintel met Brubeck and the two became friends. It was Brubeck who gave Mintel’s name to Marian McPartland, on whose “Piano Jazz” NPR show Eric performed, both solo and duet with McPartland.

The Eric Mintel Quartet (EM) has done two performances at the White House, several concerts at the Kennedy Center, a concert at the United Nations, and opened for Dave Brubeck at the Kimmel Center. The quartet has played extensively throughout the United States.

The EMQ has been featured in magazines including DownBeat, Hot House Jazz, Jazz Times, and Jazziz, as well as various major newspapers. The quartet presents “Jazz Education” and “Entrepreneurship in Jazz” workshops at colleges and universities.

Joining Mintel for the performance are long-time bandmates Nelson Hill, reeds; Dave Antonow, bass, and Dave Mohn, drums.

Hill studied with James Caruso, Eddie Daniels, Hal Galper and the legendary Phil Woods. He received a bachelor’s degree in saxophone performance from Eastman School of Music.

Hill played lead alto with the Maynard Ferguson Band and performed with the National Jazz Ensemble. He has accompanied Tony Bennett, The Spinners, The Temptations, Frankie Valli and many others.

Says Mintel “Nelson is an incredible educator. He’s an adjunct at Blair Academy and Bloomsburg University. He’s turning out some great players.

“He’s also my writing guy. If I have a tune in my head, he’ll write it. There have been times we started a rhythm at a sound check and it has become a tune.”

Hill and Mintel are Yamaha artists. Mohn is endorsed by Sabian Cymbals, Vic Firth and the Bucks County Drum Company.

Mohn has worked with Dennis DiBlasio, Richie Cole, Johnny Defrancesco, Charles Fambrough, Urbie Green and Steve Turre, among many others.

Antonow studied at William Patterson University and is equally adept at guitar and bass. He’s been with the group since 2000. He’s also played with the Fusion Jazz Trio and is an active freelance guitarist and bassist.

Of the “Charlie Brown Holiday Jazz” concert at Miller Symphony Hall, Mintel says, “We’ll play all the Vince Guaraldi stuff, but we try to make it our own. We’ll also play some reworked holiday standards like a Latin version of ‘Jingle Bells.’”

Mintel also notes, “A film crew is coming out for the show. They’re Lab 212, a group of Lehigh Carbon Community College grads.”

He points out, “We’re presenting jazz in a way that’s accessible. We’re getting the audience involved. I love it when people say, ‘I’ve never really been interested in jazz, but I like your music.’”

Ticket information: Miller Symphony Hall box office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown;; 610-432-6715