Jazz and classical music come together on the same stage when the Eric Mintel Quartet and the Columbia Pro Cantare join forces for a program of choral works composed by jazz pianist Dave Brubeck on Saturday, May 5 at 8 p.m. in the Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School.
Mintel enjoys putting together programs incorporating Brubeck's familiar jazz numbers with less frequently heard sacred choral compositions. That sacred side will be heard at the upcoming concert in four excerpts from "To Hope! A Celebration" and an excerpt from "Light in the Wilderness." Another Brubeck choral piece with inspirational content, "Hold Fast to Dreams," is based on a poem by Langston Hughes.
Joining the Eric Mintel Quartet for these pieces will be the Columbia Pro Cantare Chorus and Chamber Singers under music director Frances Motyca Dawson.
The concert also has a more secular side, as the jazz quartet comprised of Mintel on piano, Nelson Hill on saxophone and flute, Dave Mohn on drums and Jack Hedgyi on bass will perform an instrumental set including Brubeck's "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo a la Turk."
Incidentally, the Eric Mintel Quartet will be joined on "Take Five" by two students at Wilde Lake High School: Aaron Robertson on flute and Anthony Sciabarra on alto saxophone. By way of making it a Columbia weekend, the Eric Mintel Quartet also performs a concert specifically for Wilde Lake High School students on Friday, May 4.
Besides showcasing Brubeck's sacred and secular sides at the May 5 Columbia Pro Cantare concert, Mintel will perform some of his own original compositions, including "Tranquility of Love."
Although the 44-year-old Mintel and the 91-year-old Brubeck are from different generations of jazz pianists, Mintel has strong professional and personal links to that legendary musician.
"Dave has been an inspiration to me both musically as well as humanly," says Mintel, who lives in Bucks County, Pa. "I have learned a lot of life lessons and a very hard work ethic as a jazzman. It goes beyond the music. I'm glad to share our music again and to be working with this incredible choir under the direction of Frances Dawson."
Mintel's links to Columbia Pro Cantare also qualify as strong. The upcoming Brubeck-themed concert is almost exactly the same as a program they did together at the Jim Rouse Theatre in 2005; and Mintel appeared most recently with Columbia Pro Cantare in a 2008 program exploring sacred choral compositions by another jazz great, Duke Ellington.
That's why Frances Dawson says she welcomes the opportunity to work with Mintel again.
"He's extremely generous with his time," says Dawson. "He also has an all-encompassing involvement with what he's doing. What makes a great jazz musician is the ability to perform in the moment and be sensitive to everything going on all around him."
In terms of what will be happening on stage, Mintel's jazz musicians and Dawson's classical singers promise to seamlessly mesh as they perform Brubeck's notated choral scores. These scores also contain sections where the jazz musicians are meant to improvise, which means that Mintel and the other three jazz musicians will spontaneously take the music wherever it leads them; as these improvised sections reach some sort of resolution, Dawson's choral forces will rejoin the musicians for another notated section.
Not only does Mintel feel comfortable playing the music of Dave Brubeck, but he actually opened for Brubeck in a concert at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia.
His other activities give a sense of the many ways in which a jazz musician connects with audiences. Mintel was a guest on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz program on National Public Radio, has been featured in articles in Down Beat magazine, performed at the Kennedy Center more than 10 times, and released a three-CD box set in 2005.
The Eric Mintel Quartet performs with the Columbia Pro Cantare on Saturday, May 5 at 8 p.m. in the Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake, 5460 Trumpeter Road, Columbia. Tickets are $20 in advance and $23 at the door. Call 410-799-9321 or go to http://www.procantare.com.