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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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YELLOWJACKETS

Twenty Five

Heads Up HUCD 3112

 

 


CD

1. Revelation
2. Geraldine
3. Jacketown
4. Sea Folk
5. Free Day
6. My Old School
7. Greenhouse
8. RunFerYerLife
DVD

1. My Old School
2. Red Sea
3. Matinee Idol
4. Out of Town
5. Geraldine
6. Imperial Strut
7. Sea Folk
8. Greenhouse
9. Time Squared
Bob Mintzer – Tenor sax, EWI
Russell Ferrante – Acoustic piano, synthesiser
Jimmy Haslip – Electric bass
Marcus Baylor - Drums

A rather superficial editorial in a jazz magazine recently stated: "The adoption of rock music to accompany jazz solos was never going to last". In fact the concept of jazz rock – or as it is now generally known, jazz fusion, has become so embedded in jazz that it is part of the mainstream, whether certain purists like it or not. Such groups as Weather Report, Return to Forever and the Mahavishnu Orchestra established rock rhythms as entirely acceptable in jazz: an extra device in the jazz musician’s armoury.

This CD-cum-DVD not only celebrates the 25th anniversary of jazz fusion group the Yellowjackets but also reminds us how integral rock rhythms have become in certain areas of jazz. Mind you, prejudices hang on. One jazz reference book refers to the Yellowjackets as a "pop-jazz group", while another describes their music as "electric pop jazz". Presumably some pundits believe it can’t be genuine jazz if it’s popular. I beg to differ, and this album provides ample evidence for the defence.

In fact the Yellowjackets play in a variety of styles, jazz fusion being but one of a number that also encompasses straight swing and even experimentation that approaches free jazz – as in the opening to Free Day, which sounds entirely improvised. This CD and DVD illustrate the band’s remarkable versatility, with brilliant instrumental work as well as compositions from all four members of the quartet.

Keyboardist Russell Ferrante can embrace a wide range of styles and moods, from the gospel righteousness of Revelation via the lyricism of Geraldine to the ethereal synthesised strings on Greenhouse. Bob Mintzer is a saxist who covers all the jazz bases: funkily bluesy on Revelation; exploring the EWI (Electronic Woodwind Instrument) in Free Day; and going wild with just drum accompaniment on Run for Your Life. Bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Marcus Baylor are towers of strength. Bass solos are frequently uninteresting (usually because you can only half-hear them) but Haslip gives them a shape and a line, often sounding as much like a guitar as a bass.

The CD was recorded at a concert in Paris on 17 October 2005 and provides 72 minutes of high-class music. The concert footage on the DVD was filmed ten days earlier at the Naima Club in Italy. The DVD also includes generous interviews with past and present members of the band, stressing the group’s collaborative and democratic nature. The interviews show that these four men are serious about their music. They are not mere pop hopefuls: they are complete musicians. And as Marcus Baylor says "It’s just beautiful music".


Tony Augarde

 



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