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Jazz - Released September 14, 2018 | Mack Avenue Records

At the dawn of the 80’s you could say the Yellowjackets were the kings of the highway. Highway jazz to be precise. The type of Jazz fusion that one would’ve listened to in a Los Angeles traffic jam, wearing an Armani suit, with an oversized shirt, the window down, hair in the wind... Elevator music for their critics. Groovy, virtuoso, pop jazz for their fans. Like a very, very mainstream very, very smooth version of Weather Report... Three long decades later the Californian group have calmed it down a bit and have released some less built-up more acoustic jazz. Pianist and founder Russell Ferrante, saxophonist Bob Mintzer, drummer Will Kennedy and Australian virtuoso bassist Dane Alderson did not push the boundaries into a free and avant-garde style, but despite this the score for Raising Our Voice is an excellent one. The voice of Brazilian singer Luciana Souza on seven of the thirteen tracks also brings some originality to the album. The Yellowjackets stick with a smooth sound but never take the easy route. And just like in the 2016 album Cohearence, even if the melodies are very sensual, the improvisation remains, as always, very interesting. © Clotilde Maréchal/Qobuz

Jazz - Released April 22, 2016 | Mack Avenue Records

Ok – there’s definitely a play on word’s for this third album release on Mack Avenue Records from Yellowjackets – but it’s also an extremely pertinent title, as we observe an uncanny cohesion among the musical collective across all ten original compositions that feature on the album. It’s the same Yellowjackets, with a revamp in style and the addition of Australian electric bassist Dane Alderson. Melodic, rhythmic, electric jazz fusion – this has always been the basis for the group and they continue to explore and invent new musical territory as their 35-year long career continues.

Jazz - Released June 10, 1981 | Warner Bros.

The Yellowjackets made a splash with their first record, an accessible mixture of jazz, rock, and funk bearing the unmistakable mark of the L.A. session scene that spawned them. In fact, the Yellowjackets had their roots in the sessions for Robben Ford's 1979 album The Inside Story. Russell Ferrante, Jimmy Haslip, and Ricky Lawson all appeared on that album and reenlisted Ford's help for their own debut, with the guitarist's fluid soloing often taking the lead role. As fun an album as it is -- and there are times when the melodies rise to a joyful exuberance that recalls Weather Report's "Birdland" -- Yellowjackets isn't a true fusion record. Ricky Lawson provides rock beats to the material, Haslip's bass work is as funky as it is jazzy, and the arrangements tend to stick with the same groove (as ingratiating as they may be) rather than explore the musical themes like an esoteric jazz band might. The opening "Matinee Idol" is as much the Jackson 5 (one of Lawson's previous gigs) as fusion, "Rush Hour" is jazzy in a Steely Dan sense, while "Sittin' in It" actually borrows from the old funk classic "For the Love of Money." There are some nice, chunky grooves that give the album a sense of substance ("The Hornet," "Imperial Strut"), a wistful track in "It's Almost Gone," and a neat melody tucked into "Priscilla," all of which contribute to the album's charm. But compared to their GRP recordings, the Yellowjackets' debut does seem a little one-dimensional. If you enjoy the smooth, guitar-led jazz from this period (e.g., Earl Klugh, Lee Ritenour), Yellowjackets is worth checking out, both for the upbeat melodies and Ford's seemingly effortless solos. ~ Dave Connolly

Jazz - Released February 24, 2009 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

The Yellowjackets began their recording career on the Warner Brothers label in 1981, recording three albums before moving to GRP where the band found commercial success during a ten-year stay. In 1995, they returned to the Warner fold to produce some of their best, maturest music. Dreamland, Blue Hats, and Club Nocturne found the band presenting contemporary jazz music of the highest caliber. However, this music had too much depth to qualify for the smooth jazz radio playlists of the late 1990s. As the year 2000 dawned, Warner released this fine compilation of Yellowjackets' work for that label. It's an interesting musical document which shows the beginnings of the band in their original incarnation with L.A. Express guitar alumnus Robben Ford, and later finding their voice after his departure. Then there's a ten-year quantum leap to the unmatched musical sophistication of the latter trio of classy recordings with Bob Mintzer in the sax chair. The producer's choice not to arrange the tracks in chronological order is probably a smart one from a listening standpoint. Still there's quite a juxtaposition between the rich complexities of the opening "New Rochelle" and "Spirit of the West," and the pop-styled '80s fusion/funk of "Daddy's Gonna Miss You" and "Matinee Idol" that follow. The pleasures of both eras cannot be denied, however, and this disc is rewarding from start to finish. "The Chosen" and "Summer Song" from Dreamland remain superb, and Kurt Elling's vocal on Mintzer's "Up From New Orleans is a classic awaiting discovery. Samurai Samba's "Homecoming" should be familiar, and the previously unreleased "Theme From Il Postino" provides a reason for the Yellowjackets completist to own this disc. Taken with Collection from the GRP era, The Best of Yellowjackets gives a tiny glimpse at the music of this excellent group, priming the pump for further exploration of their recorded legacy. ~ Jim Newsom

Jazz - Released November 20, 2007 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

Perhaps the finest recording of this quartet's illustrious career, Dreamland captures the Yellowjackets at the peak of their compositional and performing craft. This band has moved far beyond its peers with this release. The music here is simply intoxicating, full of gorgeous melodies, deceptively intricate changes, subtle rhythmic and harmonic nuances, and flawless playing. Because of the consistency of the music, it is impossible to point out high spots. Bobby McFerrin has never sounded better than on his guest appearance on "Summer Song," but it's the high level maintained by the four Yellowjackets throughout the disc that especially entrances the listener. This is a Dreamland where any connoisseur of quality music will find delight and quiet satisfaction. ~ Jim Newsom

Jazz - Released June 25, 2013 | Mack Avenue Records

The title of this Yellowjackets effort is an apt one. The departure of co-founding bassist Jimmy Haslip in 2012 left a huge hole in the lineup. Haslip wasn't only the group's bassist, but one of its most productive composers. Founding pianist/keyboardist Russell Ferrante, with longtime members saxophonist Bob Mintzer and drummer Will Kennedy, eventually chose Felix Pastorius, son of the mighty Jaco, and a seasoned performer in his own right. (On a number of tracks here, he plays his father's bass, loaned to him by its owner, Metallica's Robert Trujillo.) The younger man doesn't play with the same "lead bass" flash of his dad -- at least in the studio -- his style here reflects the role Haslip played, but his tone and nimbleness are his own. (Check his fleet-fingered work as it meets Ferrante's arpeggios in "Thank You.") The band still carries within it the meld of contemporary and straight-ahead jazz -- with Mintzer there is always going to be a nod to post-bop in there -- but the feel is far more immediate and organic. They departed from their usual recording procedure and cut the album live in the studio, adding relatively few overdubs later. Mintzer's opener, "When the Lady Dances," is a straight-ahead post-bop number that pops and swings with a fine understated solo by Ferrante. The pianist offers "Can't We Elope," a rewrite of Herbie Hancock's "Canteloupe." It's one of three tracks here that features the trumpet of Ambrose Akinmusire. The meaty piano groove and the twin horns offer a stylish, fresh take on soulful hard bop. Another of the pianist's compositions "An Amber Shade of Blue," features a knotty head with some fiery call and response between Akinmusire and Mintzer -- the track fades in what seems like mid-jam. Mintzer's "I Knew His Father" is both a welcome to the younger Pastorius and a nod to Jaco--the saxophonist played in the Word of Mouth Band and was present at Felix's birth-- drawing a large circle to a close. Its meld of Latin groove, punchy swing, and boppish blues, offers the younger bassist a fine opportunity to comp, fill, and run the board as the band gets deep inside the melody. A Rise in the Road provides longtime Yellowjackets' fans plenty; but more importantly, it delivers a a bracing new approach and a renewed sense of swinging adventure. ~ Thom Jurek

Jazz - Released April 20, 1983 | Warner Bros.


Jazz - Released February 7, 1997 | Warner Jazz

As they continue to evolve, the Yellowjackets have gradually gone from being an R&B-oriented fusion band to a more acoustic group that emphasizes fairly straight-ahead improvisations. Although this CD has nine originals by bandmembers and some electronics are utilized (primarily by keyboardist Russell Ferrante for color), much of the music would satisfy even hard bop listeners. Bob Mintzer's many solos on tenor, soprano, bass clarinet and EWI are excellent, but it is the tightness of the rhythm section (which also includes bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer William Kennedy) that continues to give the Yellowjackets their own original sound. ~ Scott Yanow

Jazz - Released January 1, 1995 | GRP Records

The Yellowjackets were a fixture on the GRP label for a decade, and this CD is a sampling of some of their work from the period. During that era, in addition to keyboardist Russell Ferrante, electric bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer William Kennedy, the Yellowjackets were joined by the reeds of Bob Mintzer (who is heard here playing tenor, bass clarinet, soprano and the EWI). The 11 selections on the CD include a variety of pieces including vocal features for guests Take 6 ("Revelation") and Michael Franks ("The Dream"), "Wildlife," "The Spin," "Jacket Town" and a tribute to Miles Davis, "Dewey." All but one of the selections has guests (including Paulinho Da Costa, Alex Acuna or Nana Vasconcelos on percussion and Steve Croes on synclavier in addition to the singers) and in general these are some of the more commercial selections recorded by the Yellowjackets during the generally stimulating period. The numbers are taken from Live Wires, Politics, Like a River, Run for Your Love and Shades. ~ Scott Yanow

Jazz - Released January 1, 1993 | GRP Records

Other than the easy-listening pieces that appear near the beginning of the program, this is one of The Yellowjackets' strongest jazz dates. Bob Mintzer's creative reeds (switching between tenor, bass clarinet, soprano and the EWI) keep the music stimulating and keyboardist Russell Ferrante has come a long way as both an improviser (where he is most influenced by Herbie Hancock) and as the band's main composer. With bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer William Kennedy in strong supporting roles, the ensemble plays intelligent funk grooves, some mood music and occasional sections of straightahead jamming. The inclusion of the Miles Davis-influenced trumpeter Tim Hagans on half of the selections adds variety to a particularly enjoyable set. ~ Scott Yanow

Jazz - Released September 11, 1998 | Warner Bros.

For their fourteenth album as a band, the Yellowjackets announced the desire to go in a different direction from their previous outings. The difference on Club Nocturne is the inclusion of four vocal tracks. Fortunately, there is no difference here in the high level of musicianship and compositional quality long associated with this quartet. In fact, Club Nocturne is very much of a piece with its immediate predecessors, Dreamland and Blue Hats. "Spirit of the West" and "Stick_to_it_ive_ness" kick the CD off in a buoyant mood, emphasizing Russell Ferrante's inventive songwriting, Jimmy Haslip's nimble-fingered, melodic basswork, and Bob Mintzer's soprano saxophone mastery. The groove is solid, unmistakably Yellowjackets. Track three, the ultra-funky "Up From New Orleans," is a diversion for the band only because it features Kurt Elling singing Mintzer's homage to the Crescent City. The music itself is pure Mintzer-Yellowjackets, fortified with a brass band-inspired, crawfish-fed N'Orleans backbeat. "The Evening News" moves in a syncopated groove laid down by Haslip and drummer William Kennedy, who delivers his usual polyrhythmic virtuoso performance throughout the disc. The two most surprising tracks here are "Even the Pain," featuring a vocal by Jonathan Butler, and "Love and Paris Rain," with Brenda Russell carrying the vocal duty. Though these tracks would be right at home on smooth jazz radio, each has enough character to set it apart from the formulaic ballads clogging up the playlists of such stations. Butler's track has the feel of his native South Africa blended with a touch of Irish pennywhistle, while Ms. Russell's feature stands out because of its unexpected chord progressions. "The Village Church" harkens back to Ferrante's days as a youngster whose dad was a church choir director. "Twilight for Nancy" is a beautiful instrumental ballad, while "Automat" is reminiscent of earlier bandworks, with a sax and synth counterpoint played against and within the melody, conjuring up images of robotic automatons roaming back and forth across a futuristic plain. The final piece, "All is Quiet," again brings Elling to the mike, this time in an atypical setting for a Yellowjackets recording, mostly space and openness, as Elling trades lines with Mintzer's sax while the rest of the band fills in the beatless background with washes and accents. From start to finish, Club Nocturne is a satisfying addition to the Yellowjackets' catalog. While obviously seeking to expand their appeal to a wider audience, they have managed to avoid compromising their high musical standards. ~ Jim Newsom

Jazz - Released March 15, 2011 | Mack Avenue Records

Contemporary jazz ensemble Yellowjackets' 2011 Mack Avenue debut, Timeline features the band's longstanding knack for straddling the line between smooth jazz and more cerebral post-bop stuff. Marking the group's 30 years in the business, the album is a perfect mix of low-key, soulful moments and more funky, angular jazz. In that sense, it's a perfect balance of what the band has done throughout its career. Showcased here are members saxophonist Bob Mintzer, keyboardist Russell Ferrante, bassist Jimmy Haslip, and drummer Will Kennedy, as well as guests guitarist Robben Ford and trumpeter John Daversa. Ultimately, with tracks like the disarmingly knotty opener "Why Is It," the expansive "Tenacity," and the ruminative R&B-infused title track, Timeline reveals Yellowjackets as a band in a seemingly reinvigorated and creative state of mind. Not a bad place to be at 30. ~ Matt Collar

Jazz - Released February 13, 1985 | Warner Bros.


Jazz - Released January 1, 1994 | GRP Records

This is one of The Yellowjackets' most jazz-oriented sets. Roughly half of the music uses funky rhtyhms while the remainder is straightahead. "Jacket Town" sounds like it could have come from a good Eddie Harris record, Bob Mintzer's tenor is heard on a rapid run-through of rhythm changes on "Runferyerlife," keyboardist Russell Ferrante hints strongly at Chick Corea's acoustic playing on "Muhammed" and Mintzer's ballad "Sage" is memorable. This fine release is recommended both to The Yellowjackets' longtime fans and those listeners who mistakenly think that this popular group is a mundane fusion band. ~ Scott Yanow