Jul 5, 2021
Vince Mendoza has been at the forefront of the Jazz and contemporary music scene as a composer, conductor and recording artist for the last 30 years. He has written scores of compositions and arrangements for big band, extended compositions for chamber and symphonic settings while his jazz composing credits read like a “who's who” of the best modern instrumentalists and singers in the world today. He has 6 Grammy awards and 34 nominations.
Mendoza's arranging has appeared on many critically acclaimed projects that include dozens of albums with song writing legends and vocalists such as Björk, Gregory Porter, Chaka Khan, Elvis Costello, Al Jarreau, Robert Glasper, Bobby McFerrin, Diana Krall, Melody Gardot, Sting and Joni Mitchell. He is the composer in residence with the West Deutsche Rundfunk in Koln. Mendoza is also the Conductor Laureate of the Netherlands Metropole Orkest, of which he was Chief Conductor for 9 seasons.
However, he calls his latest release, Freedom is Everything, “a tectonic shift” in how he composes for large ensembles. The five movement “Concerto for Orchestra,” which he began in 2016, eschews some musical traditions, and adds a rhythm section by Antonio Sanchez and Derrick Hodge to the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and soloists like Joshua Redman. Recorded partly live and then overdubbed due to the pandemic. it makes a significant musical statement.
Further, this is the most overtly political piece Mendoza has composed, as he found the unsettling events that began in the 2016 presidential elections, and the protests and related violence that followed becoming part of his artistic process. The resulting work is another touchstone in the genre of “Third Stream” music, the amalgamation of European Art music and American Jazz pioneered by the late Gunther Schuller. Add to that the rapping of the Roots' Black Thought to the final Concerto movement, and you have a truly unique 21st century work.
Podcast 830 is my conversation with Vince (we last spoke back in August 2019 for Podcast 693) as he discusses the long road to writing, arranging and recording (during a pandemic) Freedom is Everything. Musical selections include the fourth movement of the "Concerto for Orchestra" featuring a moving solo by saxophonist Joshua Redman.