1. Why Is It
6. A Single Step
8. Like Elvin
9. My Soliloquy
11. I Do
Russell Ferrante - Piano, keyboards
Jimmy Haslip - Bass
Bob Mintzer - Tenor sax, soprano sax, bass clarinet
Will Kennedy - Drums, keyboards
Robben Ford - Guitar (track 5)
John Daversa - Trumpet (tracks 2, 8)
Yellowjackets has produced some fine albums and this one celebrates the fact that the group has been together for 30 years. Mind you, there have been some personnel changes in that time, although keyboardist Russell Ferrante and bassist Jimmy Haslip were founder-members. Bob Mintzer has been with the band for some years now, while drummer Will Kennedy has returned to the group after a dozen years elsewhere.
There is no doubting the musicians' technical ability - and their many years together explains the togetherness that one senses in every track. All the tunes are original compositions by members of the quartet, and this is where I have some difficulties with the album. Even after several hearings, none of the tunes has a clear enough shape for me to know exactly what the musicians are doing with them. This may arise because the composers are steering clear of conventional song forms and investigating a wide range of musical styles.
So the listener can just sit back and enjoy the diversity of the music without trying to analyse it too closely. And the recording is so clear that one can enjoy the mix for its own sake. If you want to analyse the styles, you can say that Why Is It is funky jazz-rock (with Bob Mintzer using the bass clarinet to unusual effect); Tenacity is beboppish (with echoes of Cheek to Cheek); and the title-track subtly increases in intensity before fading gently away. John Daversa's trumpet adds a new dimension to the band's sound on two tracks. Like Elvin employs a jagged rhythm which evokes Elvin Jones's approach to drumming.
My reaction to this CD is that the music is enjoyable and accessible, even if I can't always make out what is going on.
By the way, for those of us who need to reproduce the album cover, it's not a good idea for the record company to disfigure it by stamping "For promotional use only" over it.