Yellowjackets: The Best of Yellowjackets
You'll immediately want to program out weak tracks like "Daddy's Gonna Miss You" and "Homecoming." On the other hand, "Imperial Strut" flat out rocks. Unfortunately, however, this is the disc's only satisfying taste of Robben Ford. The other top two cuts are Mintzer's "Up From New Orleans," featuring hip vocals and scatting by Kurt Elling, and "Summer Song," a seductive bossa nova by keyboardist Russell Ferrante and bassist Jimmy Haslip with truly incredible vocalizing by Bobby McFerrin. Also worth repeated listens are Mintzer's "New Rochelle" (named for this writer's hometown) and the theme from the film Il Postino, previously unreleased, which starts out sounding like typical movie music but ultimately showcases Ferrante's jazz cred on acoustic piano. Haslip's bass playing is powerful throughout, especially on "Spirit of the West." And drummers Ricky Lawson and William Kennedy are pretty much flawless.
Of all the fusion-veering-toward-pop bands, the Yellowjackets have the most going for them. A recent Downbeat story on the politics of jazz radio mentioned that they've been systematically shut out of all mass-market programming. The guys in the band aren't happy, for obvious financial reasons. But artistically, it's probably a very good sign.
Record Label: Warner Bros.
Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock