Renowned saxophonist performs alongside TCU Jazz Ensemble


By Caleb Gottry, Staff Writer

Internationally renowned jazz saxophonist Bob Mintzer performed with TCU’s Jazz Ensemble I as part of the annual TCU Jazz Festival on Saturday, March 25. 

“It was great,” Mintzer said. “I had a lot of fun and the band did a terrific job.”

Mintzer is a performer, composer and educator. He has performed with many renowned groups, including the bands of Buddy Rich, Tito Puente and Thad Jones/Mel Lewis. Mintzer’s own big band won a Grammy for their album, “Homage to Count Basie,” in 2002.

Mintzer is now on faculty with the jazz program in the Thornton School of Music at USC and serves as the Chief Conductor of the WDR Big Band in Cologne, Germany. 

“Why do I love jazz? It’s a very freeing and expressive art form that just feels amazingly great to participate in,” Mintzer said.

Caleb Gottry

Joe Eckert, professor of saxophone and director of jazz studies at TCU, spoke about the influence of having such an esteemed guest. 

“He’s such a great professional, great player,” Eckert said. “I’ve known him for over 30 years and played with him on and off throughout the years. He’s such a great educator and inspiration to the students.”

In addition to performing with the TCU Jazz Ensemble, Mintzer also gave a clinic during the festival. 

The TCU jazz festival was started in 1978 by Curt Wilson, director of jazz studies emeritus. With 30 bands from local middle and high schools in attendance this year, it served to promote the jazz artform and to recruit students to the TCU School of Music, Eckert said. 

This was Eckert’s last jazz festival at TCU as the director of jazz studies before he retires at the end of the year. Eckert has directed Jazz Ensemble I since the fall of 2011. 

The culmination of the TCU Jazz festival was a performance by the TCU jazz ensembles. 

After a performance by Jazz Ensemble II, directed by Joey Carter, that left the audience, consisting of TCU community members and the high school ensembles, cheering, Jazz I took the stage. Mintzer joined after their first two numbers, performing songs he arranged or composed.

Jeff Kean, senior music education major at TCU and lead tenor saxophone player in Jazz I, soloed improvisationally alongside Mintzer on a chart by Mintzer entitled “Runferyerlife.”

Caleb Gottry

“It was surreal,” Kean said about the experience. “I was thinking about it the whole time and it doesn’t seem real. I was really nervous the whole time and then when I was doing it, I decided I’m just going to have fun, be in the moment, and try to savor this, because it’s not everyday you get to do that.”

The audience gave Mintzer and Jazz I a standing ovation.

Mintzer stayed backstage while Eckert presented awards for the high school and middle school bands. The musician spent time taking pictures with any students who asked, even though he had an early flight the next day.