• Mitchell Long Music •

Rique Pantoja and friends review by Michael Heilpern

- by Michael Heilpern


The Company You Keep: Rique Pantoja and Friends at Vitello's (Aug 21, 2011)

One of the great things about the jazz world is that you can often predict an outstanding musical experience even when you know nothing about the headliner, provided you recognize the people with whom he'll be sharing the stage. It's like guilt by association -- in a good way. Such was the case last night when we went to see Brazilian pianist-composer Rique Pantoja at Vitello's.

I have never been to Brazil and know only a handful of words in Portuguese, but the music of that place long ago captured my heart. The African rhythms and French impressionist harmonies so artfully combined in Brazilian jazz seem to lift my spirit and soothe my inner loneliness like nothing else. So whenever I see a listing for musical things Brazilian, I take special note.

Somehow, in my ignorance, I had never heard of Rique Pantoja (pronounced "pan-tó-zha.") But when, following his name on the LAjazz.com calendar, I saw Ernie Watts and Abraham Laboriel Sr., well, how bad could that be? And when I found out that he was from Brazil, then I knew I had to round up some friends to make the trek with us from sleepy Claremont to that vintage Italian restaurant in Studio City.

It was well worth the drive. On stage, along with professors Watts and Laboriel were Afro-Cuban drum master Alex Acuña and versatile guitarist Mitchell Long. If you haven't heard Mitchell Long, he is an American jazz guitarist and singer who has somehow spliced his musical DNA with the stuff of João Bosco and Oscar Castro-Neves to produce a rare and surprising result: He plays like a true Brazilian. Go see him!

What can I say about pianist Rique Pantoja? He is a very sweet and humble presence on stage. His melodies are so lyrical and organic that I was inclined to take them for granted, like the under-appreciated virtues of a beautiful friend you have known for many years. Seduced into a dreamlike state by the apparent simplicity of his opening lines, I was surprised to find just moments later that we were flying in the musical stratosphere in a realm of great rhythmic and harmonic intensity. This ability to effortlessly take us from sweet and gentle to wild and intense (and back again), which he demonstrated repeatedly last night, seems to be an aspect of his particular musical genius.

In the course of his first set, Rique Pantoja revealed that his musical relationship with the redoubtable Ernie Watts goes back many years. He named one of his compositions, "1,000 Watts," after his friend, and one could feel the depth of that relationship when they were together on stage. He joked that to adequately represent Ernie's talents and energy, he probably should have added several zeros to the song title!

Ernie Watts is one of those players who I will go to see -- no questions asked. Despite possessing one of the most recognizable sounds on the saxophone, in all the times I have seen him perform, it has never felt to me that he has taken a solo opportunity for granted. He seems to approach each instant with great humility, as if the departed saints of the jazz saxophone were hovering above him urging him to reach higher.

Meanwhile, Alex Acuña and Abe Laboriel seemed to be having the time of their lives. I had seen Acuña many times anchoring the percussion section of Afro-Cuban jazz bands, but he was equally masterful laying down a supple and richly layered samba beat. For his part, Abraham Laboriel seemed to be having about as much fun as a person can while keeping his clothes on. His ebullient appreciation of the music was infectious. His instrumental mastery and the caliber of his musical associates allowed him to indulge his playful nature, alternately using his instrument to great melodic, harmonic and percussive effect.

The band concluded their set with Ernie's well-known composition, "Reaching Up," which seemed to me an excellent summation of the evening's experience. Thanks to April Williams and her team for providing a warm and accommodating environment for enjoying the best in live jazz.

Michael Heilpern

Descanso Gardens Concert review C/O Corniche Entertainment

Mitchell, the nice folks at Descanso Gardens Concert's emailed me this week with their favorite artist of the entire summer, now that the series is over. They liked all of our artists, but liked you the best - they raved, actually, and said your music was beautiful and perfectly suited to the venue.  We will do it next summer again, for sure.

Thanks again, Mitchell, and thanks for representing Corniche so well!

Mark Miller

Artist Management

Corniche Entertainment

Hi Fi Mo Fo Review "Lets Dance" By Kathy Valentin of the Boulder Weekly

If you like to dance to Brazilian and Latin jazz music but don't have the means to fly to an exotic location, cruise by Round Midnight, the basement club off the west end of the pearl street mall, on a Wednesday night. There you'll encounter Latin influenced fusion jazz played by Mitchell Long's Hi-Fi MoFo, and it's as good as it gets in Boulder or anywhere else. That's the great thing about Hi-Fi MoFo, Its music with so much backbeat that it'll probably have you on your feet sooner or later (depending on your degree of shyness) “Our music is definitely on the edge. If people start dancing to it they find that they can, but if they don't dance they find that they can sit and listen to it as well" opines Mitchell Long, Hi-Fi MoFo's guitarist and lead vocalist. Long does most of the arrangements, bringing in all the Brazilian and Latin rhythms he has been studying for over a decade. Mitchell brings his musical expertise and crazy ideas to Hi-Fi MoFo and provides the open minded, discriminating musical taste and talent to create a Santana-like fusion from various essential sources. Whatever rhythm is laced into their music they stay true to. “If we play Latin-influenced music, we want the Latin people in the audience to feel like dancing" Mitchell enthuses. The fact that they have new music on hand every week lends a vary-ing trend to their shows. Mitchell also plays solo on Tuesday nights down the street at Mars Espresso and Wine Bar, as well as with the Mitchell Long Bossa Nova Trio and The Billy Tolles Jazz and Blues Express.

Kathy Valentin

Boulder Weekly

Mitchell Long review by Melissa at Higher ground music

Known for his incredible musical style and revered by all of his musical peers, Long plays Jazz and Brazilian style guitar like no other! Beautiful melodic music and captivating vocals will have you listening and looking for future performances. Truly elegant and sophisticated, Mitchell has a sultry and soulful way of astounding you with a command of the guitar that is pure musical excellence. Don't miss this opportunity to see a rare international player of over 25 years in an intimate setting. Trust me there is only one Mitchell Long.


Higher Ground Music

The Organ Grinders Review by E. K. Torkornoo

I believe that Mitchell Long's The Organ Grinders with Gordon Sims on the Hammond B-3, and Mitchell Long on Guitar replicates and boldly extends the great and classic jazz tradition established by jazz greats Jimmy Smith, and Wes Montgomery. Sims weaves a masterful combination of solos, melody and base at once self-effacing, and then screamingly creative. Long's command of the guitar is deep and diverse; demonstrating a range - from classic to popular - that is cerebral, and also refreshingly modern. Together, this dynamic duo is more than amply complemented by the drum groves of Kevin Smith to deliver some of the best classic style jazz in the west. The Organ Grinders with Sims and Long are Denver's answer to jazz greats Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery. This unheralded local Denver treasure is worth the patronage of jazz aficionados and local media alike.

E.K Torkornoo


The Brad Upton Quintet Review by Bill Gallo from Westword

Trumpeter Brad Upton's previous CD on the Black Orchid label, Dragon, was recorded in May 2001 and released earlier this year; it revealed a jazzman whose ideas and gifts were spreading far and wide. His "current" release, also called Black Orchid, is, in truth, a leftover from 1999 that's just now making its way to the bins. The eight tracks -- all Upton originals -- seem to have one eye on the commercial airwaves and the other on new-age bliss, not a good quiniela for a player seeking to make a mark. The standout here is brilliant Denver/Boulder guitarist Mitchell Long, whose inventive improvisations are still underrated on his own turf.

Bill Gallo

Westword Magazine (Denver)

Lannie Garret CD Review by Recording Magazine

Lannie Garrett's Second CD Release, "Just For A Thrill" echoes the innocence and sentiment of the 1950s and 1960s. "Just For A Thrill," is a trip back-in-time with a twist. Buddy Holly's "True Love Ways", Charlie Rich's "Who Will The Next Fool Be", and the title track, Ray Charles' "Just For A Thrill" are just a few of the classic songs you'll hear on this CD But the piece-de-resistance are the rhythmic, almost hypnotic Afro-Brazilian arrangements guitarist/percussionist Mitchell Long weave around the Jo Stafford hit, "You Belong To Me", and the danceable re-make of Benny King's, "Amor." We LOVE this one.

The Mitchell Long Brazilian Quintet by Janus Jazz Aspen

The Mitchell Long Brazilian Quintet featured this week is a world class act that will take you “off the planet" with its well versed “samba-bossanova" music. The group also features drummer legend Claudio Slon (Sinatra, Jobim, Sergio Mendes)

Janus Jazz Aspen

Mitchell Long review by Michele Mobely @ Sugardaddy Jazz and Blues Magazine

Seeing him on stage, sitting among the rest of the musicians, you are merely aware that there is going to be a guitar player with the band tonight. The ensemble starts with some fine jazz music. A few tunes are played and everyone takes their turn at solos. Your awareness turns to delight as he takes the spotlight and runs away with the show. The evening truly belongs to Mitchell Long when he is featured strumming and singing, in perfect Portuguese, Brazilian tunes both familiar and originally new to your ear.

Michele Mobely

Sugardaddy Jazz and Blues Magazine