Vince Mendoza: Nights on Earth

Mendoza Stays True to Himself

It’s been a long time coming, but finally, we have another album of all-original Vince Mendoza compositions.  I could not have been happier to see Nights on Earth in the mail at the station over winter break.  Mendoza is one the most in-demand arrangers and composers in the world.  He won two Grammys for his work with Joni Mitchell on Both Sides Now and Travelogue. He has also worked with Bjork, Elvis Costello, and Sting. Oh, and he’s also the conductor of the Metropole Orchestra in the Netherlands. Not too shabby.

True to its title, Nights on Earth draws from Mendoza’s favorite styles from all over the world, including flamenco, Cuban, Malian, and Italian.  Despite the seemingly random assortment of influences, the music sounds distinctly like Vince Mendoza.  He wrote each song with specific musicians in mind to let them be themselves.  One of my favorite tracks, “Shekere,” features Tom Diakite, singing in his native language from Mali.  Diakite also plays the kora, a Malian stringed instrument that sounds somewhere between a banjo and a harp, which only plays into Mendoza’s aim to blend styles across oceans.

Mendoza draws from his jazz roots too.  “Gracias” combines the legendary guitarist John Scofield and organist Larry Goldings with Afro-Cuban batá talking drums, and out comes a soulful meditation.  “Poem of the Moon,” a dark, gradually building dialogue between guitarist John Abercrombie and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire showcases Mendoza’s uncanny ability to layer textures.

Other notable jazz artists on this album include bassist Christian McBride, saxophonist Joe Lovano, and pianist Kenny Werner.

Whether you’re into music heavy on world influences, complex large ensemble compositions, or modern jazz, you can’t go wrong with Nights on Earth.  Hopefully Mendoza can find some time in his psychotic schedule to give us another album of originals sooner rather than later.

As always, get your jazz fix every weekday morning from 6 to 9am, and hear the best in local jazz every Tuesday night at 10pm.

Follow Lucas Homer on twitter @KCJazzConnxn

Release Date: October 30th, 2011

by lucas homer
tune in to kc jazz connection every tuesday night from 10 to 11 p.m.