Guy Mintus Trio - A Gershwin Playground

When & Where November 24, 2021, at 7pm | The Norman & Annette Rothstein Theatre, also Live Stream on Demand

Reviewer John Jane

Guy Mintus is an Israeli piano player extraordinaire. He is another artist returning from last year’s virtual Chutzpah Festival, this time with new band mates, Philippe Lemm on drums and Luke Sellick on double bass. While much of the evening’s repertoire is taken from his tribute to George Gershwin album, the trio also features a couple of original compositions and a jazz inflected interpretation of Chopin’s Nocturne.

The guys kick start the show with the somewhat ironically titled Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off with the pianist drifting between tight melody lines and loose improvisation. The trio demonstrates their versatility with Mintus’ self-penned atmospheric tune Our Journey Together written expressly for the short film Can you Tell the Difference, a political commentary about the escalation of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict in the middle of the last decade. The piece has faint strains of klezmer styling.

The talented threesome complete the first set with It Ain’t Necessarily So from Gershwin’s Depression era opera Porgy and Bess. Mintus provides gung-ho vocals with a somewhat tongue-in-cheek reference to the biblical lyrics. For a jazz piano player, Mintus certainly has a very pleasant crooning vocal style.

On the band’s return to the stage, Iris Bahr conducts a campy Q&A session with Mintus fielding most of the questions. Back to musical performance, you have to be good to improvise Frédéric Chopin and get away with it. The Polish composer’s well known Nocturne gets an expansive treatment that some classical music devotees may not recognize.

Next, another original composition that Mintus dedicates to his new wife. The tune’s arrangement is more straight forward than the original tune performed earlier and sublimely lyrical. Mintus seems to be big on dedications; the trio’s performance of Someone to Watch Over Me was devoted to Annette Cohen who conveys the impression of being a former mentor.

The final tune in the planned repertoire, the haunting Rhapsody in Blue was composed by Gershwin in 1924 for solo piano. Mintus, out of reverence played it solo, augmenting his adaptation with trademark plucking the strings inside the piano and even fusing a little honky-tonk styling at the end.

Mintus can also be a showman, holding back his pièce de résistance until the anticipated encore. Any previous version I’ve heard of Summertime has been laid-back, even mellow – after all, it is intended as a lullaby. But the Mintus Trio’s rendition isn’t going to put any babies to sleep. Mintus combines Gershwin’s rich melody with a potent fusion of African rhythms and New York funky jazz riffs.

At the end of the concert Guy Mintus expresses a keenness to return to Vancouver again – please make it soon!

© 2021 John Janer