Bob Mintzer

Bowen H. "Buzz" and Barbara M. McCoy Endowed Chair in Jazz; Chair, Jazz Studies Program

Professor of Jazz Studies

  • Program:
    Jazz Studies
  • Division:
    Contemporary Music
  • Instrument:


Bob Mintzer is a Grammy winning saxophonist, composer, arranger and educator who has been working in the music scene since 1974. After attending Hart College of Music and the Manhattan School of Music, Bob joined the bands of Tito Puente and Eumir Deodato, touring the world and playing regularly around New York City.

In 1975, Bob joined the Buddy Rich Big Band and spent 2 1/2 years there, creating arrangements and writing/recording 8 pieces. The band played every night of the year with just two weeks off at Christmas.

Bob signed on with the Thad Jones Mel Lewis Big Band in 1978, continuing to write and perform with other jazz luminaries around New York, including Art Blakey, Joe Chambers, Sam Jones, Tom Harrell. From 1981-82, Bob was a member of the Jaco Pastorius Word of Mouth band, making several recordings and touring the globe.

In 1983, Bob started the Bob Mintzer Big Band, recording the Papa Lips album for CBS Sony. The band included luminaries such as Dave Sanborn, Michael and Randy Brecker, Peter Erskine and Don Grolnick and performed regularly at 7th Avenue South and the Village Vanguard. Over the course of 22 years, the band went on to record 14 albums for the esteemed DMP label.

Bob joined the Yellowjackets in 1990, recording Greenhouse and embarking on a venture that is still thriving today. The band continues to travel the world, releasing innovative and distinctive recordings.

In 2001, the Bob Mintzer Big Band album Homage to Count Basie was awarded a Grammy for best large jazz ensemble recording. Bob joined forces with the Manchester Craftsmans Guild label in 2006 and has made 6 recordings for them to date.

Bob has performed with the N.Y. Philharmonic, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Metropole Orchestra, National Symphony and Buffalo Philharmonic. He has written over 300 big band arrangements, many of which are performed today, all over the world. Bob has published several books of etudes, a piano book, and a solo transcription for Alfred Music.

Bob is currently on the faculty of the USC Thornton School of Music in the endowed position of Bowen H. “Buzz” and Barbara M. McCoy Chair in Jazz. He and his wife live in the Hollywood Hills in a former home of composer Arnold Schoenberg.

Video Features

Bob Mintzer, Tenor Saxophone
Bob Mintzer - Papa Lips

Five Questions with Bob Mintzer

What is your teaching philosophy?

When working with students, my objective is to inspire their desire to develop personal and systematic pathways toward becoming a better musician. Tricks of the trade and commentary on a student’s work are part and parcel, but it ultimately hinges on the work each student does on his or her own to connect with the music.

How do you think about presenting your playing?

Along with the life-long endeavor of mastering an instrument comes the task of deciding how you, as an artist, want to present your craft. This involves arranging, composing, the selection of repertoire and deciding who you want to play with and what the intent of the music should be. The question becomes how to present your music in the best light possible and how to incorporate what you’re working on as an instrumentalist into your repertoire using the aforementioned devices.

What is your favorite recipe?

I love making salads with ingredients from the Hollywood Farmers’ Market. The vegetables just explode with flavor. I always include homemade olive oil and locally grown avocados from my backyard! The beauty of California is that fresh produce is available year-round.

Do you choose music, or does music choose you?

In my case, music chose me, without question. I was drawn to anything I would hear on television, radio, recordings, or in concert, and was compelled to try and figure out what was happening in the music. I would spend hours at a piano trying to recreate snippets of music that I’d heard. I wanted to play every instrument that there was and wanted to figure out what made different kinds of music sound as they did. To this day, I can’t go in to a restaurant playing cheesy music and not analyze what I’m hearing. My brain gets sucked into the speakers. This can sometimes be a curse!

What is your favorite thing to do in L.A.?

My wife and I love to go to the Walt Disney Concert Hall and hear the Los Angeles Philharmonic, or any other kind of music that may be presented there. Disney Hall is one of the best concert halls I’ve ever experienced! We really enjoy having dinner at any number of fantastic restaurants in Los Angeles with good friends. Many of these restaurants are in absolutely beautiful settings. We also love to hike in Griffith Park or along the ocean in Malibu. It is incredible to have great weather for outdoor activity all year-round.

Professional experience

Honors, Awards & Competitions:

2001, Grammy for best large jazz ensemble recording


  • Four jazz etude books (Belwin Jazz),
  • Solo transcription book (Belwin Jazz)
  • Saxophone method book (Kendor Music)
  • Four saxophone quartets (Kendor Music)