Yellowjackets: Blue Hats
Ferrante's "Statue of Liberty" successfully works the "Freedom Jazz Dance" groovefinding Mintzer dancing hot on bass clarinet and Ferrante in an inspired bit of Keith Jarrett standards-trio mode (ever wonder how David Murray on a quiet day and the lately-restrained Jarrett might sound together?). "Coal Minor Blues" (good titleanother from Ferrante) finds the pianist in a more Tyner-esque mode; inspiring Fortune smiles out of Mintzer. The tracks which find Ferrante's tasteful use of synthesizer in the background ("Savanna," "New Rochelle," where Mintzer sounds like Pat Metheny (!) on EWI, and "Coquimbo") to these ears, force Mintzer and company to explore Sadao Watanabe terrain (when Dave Grusin was the point man).
The real charmer here, though, is found on the first track; the fusionistic "Capetown." Although it's Mintzer who's center stage here, it's the infrequently backgrounded Ferrante who makes this track a real treat. His Dave Grusin-meets-Dollar Brand rendering provides "Capetown" with terrific musical comments: quick Gospel fills, sensitive comping and Grusin's knack for spit-clean riffs.
The group excels again on "With These Hands" (Mintzer suggesting Ernie Watts here) and on the ballad "Prayer for Peace," a soft, mellow groove that invites popular attention.
One annoyance, however, must be stated. Too many of the tunes on Blue Hats fade into silence. This suggests pop recording more than jazz performances. Even if this is the case, the 'Jackets are clearly above this crap. It denigrates their creativity. Producer Matt Pierson, an accomplished producer who has recently recorded some notable jazz for Warner Bros. (Joshua Redman, Bob James), should know better. What we really need is to have the Yellowjackets recorded live. But, for the time being, Blue Hats offers some nice moments worth checking out.
Record Label: Warner Bros.