Aug 8, 2019
Way back in 2011, my year end podcast picked Nights on Earth, Vince Mendoza’s dazzling, sweeping work as one of the most Notable Releases of that year. Since then, the six-time Grammy winner left his position as conductor of the Metropole Orchestra and has arranged, scored, or conducted more than thirty pop, classical and jazz albums.
His latest release is a collaboration with the Temple University Studio Orchestra, aided by soloists Terell Stafford on trumpet and Dick Oatts on alto saxophone. Constant Renaissance was written by Mendoza as a remembrance of the City of Philadelphia’s place in jazz history, and its ability to continually reinvent itself in producing musicians of a high level. The compact three movement suite is dedicated to Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday and John Coltrane, all of whom called Philadelphia home during crucial times in their musical development. As with Nights on Earth, the music is panoramic in style and scope, the style distinctly Vince’s, but calling to mind the finest work of Gil Evans or the larger Ellington ensembles.
Approaching his 58th birthday, Mendoza is constantly working, and when we talked had a number of projects in motion. His work with jazz ensembles, from the large Metropole Orchestra and WDR Big Band to more compact groups like Al DiMeola’s World Sinfonia keep him constantly in demand. Vocalists, particularly female vocalists like Madeline Peyroux, Melody Gardot, Janis Siegel, and Diana Krall flock to him to arranger and conduct their projects. His most notable work with a singer was the two Grammy winning albums with Joni Mitchell, Both Sides Now (2000), and Travelogue (2002).
Podcast 693 is my conversation with Vince Mendoza, as he walks us through the art of arrangement, and tells inside stories of the making of Constant Renaissance, Nights on Earth, and albums with Elvis Costello and Ms. Mitchell. Musical selections include the first movement of Constant Renaissance, entitled “Bebop Elation” and dedicated to Dizzy Gillespie; “Gracias” from Nights on Earth, featuring the playing of John Scofield, Alan Pasqua, Larry Goldings, Jimmy Johnson, Luis Conte and vocalist Lorraine Perry; Elvis Costello’s reworking of Billy Strayhorn’s “Blood Count” as the title track from My Flame Burns Blue; and “Woodstock” from Joni Mitchell’s Travelogue.