MANCHESTER, NH – Eric Mintel couldn’t be more excited to play the Palace Theatre for a one-night engagement Dec. 7. Although it’s his first time at the Hanover Street venue, he’s built up quite a local fan base over the past dozen years by playing gigs around the state, from college campuses and the now defunct Riverfest, to a stop last year at the Stockbridge Theatre in Derry.
“I’ve been talking with the Palace for four or five years, so this is exciting. It’s going to be a great concert,” says Mintel, of Bucks County, PA. “Not only will it be wonderful to perform at such a beautiful, historic venue like the Palace, but it gives us a chance to reintroduce ourselves to a New Hampshire audience.”
Mintel isn’t speaking in the third-person just because he can – he is bringing his talented jazz combo, the Eric Mintel Quartet, to the Palace Stage for this engagement – which includes Nelson Hill, Jack Hegyi, and Dave Mohn.
This show is billed as a Charlie Brown Jazz Christmas, honoring the 50th anniversary of composer Vince Guaraldi, who provided the memorable jazz soundtrack to everyone’s favorite cartoon Christmas classic.
“We’ll be performing all those classics from Charlie Brown, which we give our own spin to, for a hip and fresh take on Vince Guaraldi’s classic tunes. It’s a lot of fun for us,” Mintel says.
When he’s not taking his show on the road, or working on new material, Mintel invests his time and talent in nurturing the next generation of jazz musicians, doing workshops at schools around the country while preaching the gospel of jazz as a unique and timeless form of musical expression.
“I was an only child, and growing up we didn’t have much, but we did have a piano in the house, which provided me with so much joy. When I was about 14 in the early 1980s I remember listening to a lot of different kinds of music which, at the time, included rock and punk rock, new age – I even began to go through my parent record collection,” says Mintel, underscoring the importance of exposure to good music.
“And there, among the Elvis and Ray Charles and R&B, I came across an old 45 by Dave Brubeck. On one side was ‘Take Five,’ and on the other was ‘Blue Rondo à la Turk.‘ I had an immediate connection with the music. For me, jazz resonated like nothing I’d ever heard before. It was the sound quality of the instruments, of Paul Desmond’s sax, of Brubeck playing those block chords. It appealed to me and after one listen I knew I wanted to make a life as a jazz musician,” says Mintel.
It was an epiphany that set his life in motion, and something he now tries to give back through the outreach he’s developed running music clinics at schools.
“That’s why I do what I do,” says Mintel. “If I can change just one person’s life, or inspire somebody, that’s what it’s all about. The thing is, a lot of these kids today aren’t exposed to jazz or live music, so what we try to do is, when we perform, we also look for opportunities to expand their minds into giving jazz a chance,” Mintel says.
Part of the educational arm of his performance work includes instructing students about how to listen to jazz, the roles of the different instruments in jazz setting, how the different rhythms matter, and most of all, what the future of jazz will sound like.
“I’m not so much about getting into the history of jazz with students. Rather, I tend to talk about the here and now, and about the future – the inner workings of it all, the communication between musician and music, and how it’s a language we’re speaking,” Mintel says. “And I also have a talk with music students on the business of jazz, and what a great opportunity it has been for me to perform. I tell them that with a degree in music, there are a lot of opportunities to work in some capacity, whether in a studio, or with a band, or even a place like the Palace.”
Speaking of which, Mintel hopes those coming out for the Dec. 7 show are ready for a wild ride.
“Who should come out? People who are Dave Brubeck lovers, Vince Guaraldi fans and the Peanuts faithful. Even though I’m an unknown factor, the musicianship coming to the Palace is incredible – my sax player played for Maynard Ferguson and Buddy Rich for years, Dave Mohn on drums has played with a veritable ‘who’s who’ of rock musicians, Jack Hegyi on bass played with Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gourmet – this group is high energy. It’s going to be like a rock concert, only it’s jazz,” says Mintel.
“I’m going to make believers out of everyone, jazz lovers or not,” he says. “So yeah, come for the Charlie Brown tribute, but stay for our version of ‘Take 5’ – it’s gonna blow the roof off the Palace.”
Tickets for the Eric Mintel Quartet are $24.50 and available via the Palace Theatre website or by calling the box office at (603) 668-5588. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.
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