By Bob Doerschuk | Published July 2017
With this generous double-album package, Billy Mintz gifts us with challenging, yet communicative, music. Whether setting the stage for free blowing or powerful through-composed themes, the drummer-composer has fashioned an album whose excellence runs wide and deep.
Ugly Beautiful is many things. One thing it is not is a vanity project. There are only a few moments throughout these two-plus hours when Mintz plays alone, and those moments are always in service of the music. The first three minutes of “Shmear” are nothing but drums, played thoughtfully, with muted dynamics and minimal flash. They draw the listener into an almost trancelike state, so that when the band comes in at an insanely rapid clip with a sputtering three-note motif, it’s like a friendly—almost comic—slap to the face.
Mostly, Ugly Beautiful is an ensemble achievement, within which the participants play at the peak of their powers. As leader of this gifted assembly, Mintz distinguishes himself for his ability to draw from multiple wells and satisfy our thirst for music that honors tradition and exploration, equally.
Ugly Beautiful: Disc One: Angels; Vietnam; Dit; Flight; Flight (Ballad); Cannonball; Shmear; Dit (Alternate Take); Umba. Disc Two: Tumba; Dirge; Love And Beauty; Ugly Beautiful; Relent; Retribution; After Retribution; Cannonball (Extended). (80:23/76:20)
Personnel: Billy Mintz, drums, percussion; John Gross, tenor saxophone; Tony Malaby, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Roberta Piket, piano, keyboard; Hilliard Greene, bass.