On Stage: Eric Mintel keeping classic jazz in spotlight

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Eric Mintel

The list of talented and famous people in the arts who are Bucks County natives and/or residents is long and varied.

It includes Nobel Prize-winning author Pearl S. Buck, Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Michener, actor/director/screen writer Liev Schreiber and Oscar and Tony Award-winning writer and theatrical producer Oscar Hammerstein II.

The roster of luminaries in the world of music features Central Bucks alumni Pink and Justin Guarini, Renaissance vocalist Annie Haslam, Leon Redbone, Mary Fahl, Ween’s Dean and Gene Ween, Karen Gross and Dead Milkmen drummer Dean Sabatino, a Pennridge High School graduate.

The list also includes another Pennridge High grad – highly acclaimed jazz pianist Eric Mintel.

Over the two decades, Mintel and the Eric Mintel Quartet — Nelson Hill, alto sax; Dave Mohn, drums; Jack Hegyi, bass – have established themselves internationally as one of the premier American jazz ensembles.

The quartet’s choral concerts feature the rarely heard sacred choral music of Duke Ellington performed with various choirs throughout the country combining jazz and choral music. Mintel performed at the White House for President Clinton in 1998 and the Obamas in 2011. In 2005, Mintel was the featured guest on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz on NPR. The Eric Mintel Quartet’s resume also includes a gig as the opener for Dave Brubeck at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia.

On January 15, the Eric Mintel Quartet will perform at The Deck Bar and Restaurant at Bucks County Playhouse (70 South Main Street, New Hope, https://playhousedeck.com). The band will return to The Deck Bar on February 19 and will visit Chester County on March 6 for a show at the French Creek Golf Club in Elverson.

Jazz legend Dave Brubeck said, “As long as the music attracts dedicated young musicians like Eric Mintel and the Eric Mintel Quartet, jazz will continue to thrive and progress as a voice of freedom.”

Brubeck was one of Mintel’s earliest influences.

“I got into music as an only child when we had a piano in the house,” said Mintel, during a phone interview last week from his Bucks County home in Perkasie.

“When I was 14, I found an old 45 record of Dave Brubeck Quartet’s ‘Blue Rondo a la Turk’ and that got me interested in his music. I met him for the first time years ago at the Keswick Theater and we started a great writing correspondence.”

Mintel was born in October 1967. As early as age three, Mintel could be found sitting at the piano creating his own melodies. Music, especially classical and jazz, was always part of the Mintel household.

In 1982, when his high school piano teacher was trying to teach the basics to Mintel, the young pianist was already playing compositions like “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” “Take Five” and other demanding pieces. In 1993, he formed the Eric Mintel Quartet.

“I’ve had this lineup together about 15 years,” said Mintel. “They all are local. Dave is from Bucks County, Nelson is from Mount Bethel and Jack is from Atco, New Jersey.”

Mintel started his recording career with a pair of albums in the late 1990s – “Impressions of Jazz” (1996) and “Lullaby” (1998).

“I’ve recorded 15 albums altogether,” said Mintel. “My latest recording is ‘Eric Mintel Quartet (Live At the 36th Annual Celebration of the Arts Festival),’ which was recorded in 2013. Prior to that, I had been putting out an album a year since the early 2000s.

“My next project is a Christmas album that I’m going to record at the end of January at Spectra Sound Recording in Quakertown. I’m going to use the Central Bucks West High School chorus under the direction of Joe Orht on one of the tracks.

“The album will be self-produced. Most of the holiday tunes are originals and there will also be a few cool standards. I’m going to do it piece-by-piece. The whole album should be done by the middle of February.”

While Mintel will play covers of songs by artists such as Dave Brubeck, he prefers tunes he has penned himself.

“I always perform a lot of originals,” said Mintel. “That’s why every show is always different.”

Video link for Eric Mintel Quartet — https://youtu.be/EdaHEddcUng.

The show at the The Deck Bar and Restaurant at Bucks County Playhouse will start at 7 p.m.

Eva B. Ross

Eva B. Ross may not be a familiar name for area music fans but that should all change soon.

Ross, a talented young singer/songwriter/rock musician from Southern California, just released her debut EP, “Playlist For The Apocalypse,” in October. Recently, she embarked on her first tour of the East Coast.

The tour brings her to Philly on January 15 for a show at Bourbon and Branch (705 North Second Street, Philadelphia, 215-238-0660, bourbonandbranchphilly.com).

Born and raised in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, Ross pairs her dreamy vocals with a knack for writing hook-filled, heartfelt indie pop-rock tunes.

“I grew up in a musical/creative arts family,” said Ross, during a phone interview last week as she travelled to Joshua Tree, California to work on a short film.

“I was always an avid listener. I wrote my first song when I was six or seven. I started really writing songs when I was 11. I listened religiously to the Beatles and to artists such as Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell and Fiona Apple.

“Now, I listen to a lot of other L.A. musicians. There is so much great music coming out of L.A. One of my favorite spots to play is The Bootleg. I also like shows at The Living Room.”

In high school, Ross studied songwriting at Interlochen Arts and later attended the Stanford Jazz Vocal Residency.

“I grew up in the Valley and then went to UCLA,” said Ross. “I’m still living in L.A. but I’m now on the East Side.”

Ross began performing live when she was an undergrad at UCLA. She won UCLA’s “Spring Sing” in 2017 at Pauley Pavilion with her original composition, “Chicago.” Past recipients of the award include Sara Bareilles and Maroon 5. While in college, Ross started working as a SAG session singer and became a regularly featured vocalist on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live.

“I studied history at UCLA and wrote my thesis on the first World War,” said Ross. “My first history interest was American history and how nations are social constructs.

“I’ve always been fascinated by history. I’m still a student of history. It’s very literate and that helps me with songwriting. My favorite types of songs are ones that paint pictures I can relate to. I try to write songs that are snapshots.

“Every time I write a song, I write with empathy. Empathy is important in writing honest songs.”

Ross produced her debut EP independently — teaming up with producer and bandmate Grant Milliken and L.A. producer/artist Paul Castelluzzo. “Playlist For The Apocalypse” features six songs that are Ross originals.

“I recorded the EP in February and March 2019 and it came out in October,” said Ross. “There are five studio songs and one live track – all recorded in L.A.”

This week’s visit to Philadelphia will be Ross’ first trip to the city.

“I’ve never played on the East Coast before,” said Ross. “I’m very excited about this tour.”

Video link for Eva B. Ross – https://youtu.be/04qWVFPeIlA.

The show at Bourbon and Branch, which has Jack Symes as the opening act, will start at 8 :30 p.m. Tickets are $12.

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