Eric Mintel owes much in his career to legendary jazz pianist/composer Dave Brubeck, who passed away Dec. 5, one day before his 92nd birthday. Since discovering Brubeck as a young teen while browsing through his parents' record collection, Mintel was playing "Blue Rondo a la Turk" and "Take Five" and learning what it would take to be a working jazz musician. Some 20 years later, he's not only a bandleader but an accomplished artist who's performed for Presidents Obama and Clinton at the White House, and at the Kennedy Center and the United Nations.
The Eric Mintel Quartet comes home to Bucks County for the holidays with a concert on Saturday at 2 p.m., at the Sellersville Theater. The quartet will be joined by the Bethlehem Middle School Chorus' Northeast Singers, under the direction of Denise Parker, as they present the "Charlie Brown" music of jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi. Members of the quartet include Jack Hegyl on bass, Nelson Hill on alto sax and Dave Mohn on drums.
The Eric Mintel Quartet has performed standing-ovation concerts throughout the Lehigh Valley, including appearances at Mayfair Festival of the Arts and Musikfest. Just last weekend, the quartet performed their re-score of the holiday film classic, "It's a Wonderful Life," for SteelStacks' Soundtrack Comes Alive series at the Frank Banko Alehouse Cinema in Bethlehem. Original music and holiday classics were presented live on stage as the sound was lowered during appropriate moments of the screening. Mintel called the project "a new but old concept," pairing the American art form of jazz with one of America's greatest film classics. Of course, he included Brubeck's "Take Five" in the re-score.
The Pennridge High School graduate said he can vividly recall his first concert some 20 years ago -- Nov. 12, 1993, to be exact. It was his first tribute to the music of Dave Brubeck. Though he never got to play with the great master, Mintel's quartet did get to open for him at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia in 2005. "I saw him in the wing, smiling from ear to ear at us," Mintel recalled. Brubeck later wrote the liner notes for the quartet's CD, "50 Years After...A Tribute to Dave Brubeck," released in 2009.
Mintel is happy to talk at great length on Brubeck when given the opportunity. He said he listened to other jazz musicians while growing up but it was the rhythm and the way Brubeck was bringing jazz to the masses that captured his attention. Now Mintel is performing Brubeck on a different level, doing more of his obscure music.
"He was strong, just the epitome of class, a complete gentleman," described Mintel of Brubeck. "He respected the public, and he respected musicians and producers. There was always a feeling of love for people. He was a champion of jazz."
Mintel said he was thrilled to have performed at the White House for Presidents Clinton and Obama. Last December, he got to perform at a holiday dinner reception and meet Obama. That's when he learned the two had a mutual friend -- Dave Brubeck. "He (Obama) told me how his dad brought him to see his first concert as a kid, and the headliner was Dave Brubeck," Mintel said.
Mintel said plans in 2013 for the quartet, which he refers to as "a band of brothers," include a trip to California in September. He also added he'll be booking the Bucks County Jazz Festival, Sept. 20-21, which will be held at the New Hope Winery. The festival is being produced by the Bucks County Business Association. A tour of Europe for the quartet isn't far behind, he added, along with some more recordings and solo piano.
The quartet's latest and 10th CD, "Just Around the Corner," was released this past July, with a title that Mintel described as reflecting "much the way events just happened in our music career and how a lot of our music evolved. ...We get motivation from our audiences every time we play. There are always new things happening." Mintel said he's excited that college students are taking notice of his music as well. "That's a good sign, and we're looking forward to continually reaching more audiences," he said.
A selection from the new CD, titled "Heart of the Holidays," is included on the just-released "Winter Wonderland" CD by the Pennsylvania Jazz Collective, which features regional artists. Proceeds benefit educational programs for local students of jazz.
There's a call for artists for the theme, "Home," at the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts 2013 annual juried exhibition in Reading. The show is open to all media including painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, photography, printmaking, fibers, ceramics, glass, video and new media.
'Home' is, quite literally, what you make it, according to GoggleWorks. Is it a structure, a specific place, a status symbol, temporary or permanent, personal or global? It's up to the artist for interpretation.
A Grand Prize Award for best in show will be presented, with the winner featured in a solo show at GoggleWorks' Cohen Gallery. Cash prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place.
Juror is Genevieve Coutroubis, award-winning documentary photographer and ethnographer. She is director of programming for The Center for Emerging Visual Artists in Philadelphia.
Entry deadline is Jan. 30, 2013. The exhibition will run May 11-June 23. A Meet the Artists Reception will be held First Friday, June 7, from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
For further info: goggleworks.org
There are wonderful holiday events still underway in the Lehigh Valley leading up to Christmas. Historic Bethlehem is featuring night bus tours, horse-drawn carriage rides, the Christmas Putz and Christkindlmarkt, to name some. Allentown has Lights in the Parkway. The Zoellner Arts Center is featuring Cirque Eloize in "iD" on Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m., with acrobats, break dancers, contortionists and stunt artists. Check out the Web sites for a happening near you.