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Yellowjackets: Twenty Five (2006)

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Yellowjackets: Twenty Five How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

For some veteran bands, a live album can be a way to buy time until the next studio release. For the Yellowjackets, Twenty Five offerns an opportunity to celebrate 25 years of growth, change and development. Following the addition of Bob Mintzer on tenor saxophone in 1990, the band's evolution from smooth jazz to serious contemporary music was solidified. Since then, Mintzer's sax has become the predominant sound of the Yellowjackets, a decision that founding members pianist Russell Ferrante and bassist Jimmy Haslip seem to have embraced without allowing their egos to get in the way.

Among the CD's highlights are "Jacketown," drummer Marcus Baylor's "Free Day" and "Greenhouse." Live albums are by their nature an opportunity for the members of the band to flex their musical muscles, but the Yellowjackets temper the urge to overindulge in gratuitous solos, preferring to keep things within the framework of the entire group.

The ensemble puts its skills on display on both the CD and DVD live performances captured on Twenty Five. The bonus live DVD was filmed in Italy in 2005. It's interesting to note the video portion of the package was filmed and directed by Tony Zawinul, son of Weather Report co-founder Joe Zawinul. The Yellowjackets have picked up the improvisational virtuosity that was a signature of the Weather Report legacy.

The DVD also includes interviews with the present members of the Yellowjackets and past alumni. The democractic approach of the band—where all the musicians are recognized as individual talents, but none of them are above the others—is key to the band's longevity.

Twenty Five is an excellent jumping-on point for new fans and a fine summation for old fans of how far this band has come since 1981.

Track Listing: CD: Revelation; Geraldine; Jacketown; Sea Folk; Free Day; My Old School; Greenhouse; RunFerYerLife DVD: My Old School; Red Sea; Matinee Idol; Out of Town; Geraldine; Imperial Strut; Sea Folk; Greenhouse; Time Squared.

Personnel: Russell Ferrante: accoustic piano & synthesizers; Jimmy Haslip: electric bass; Bob Mintzer: tenor saxophone, EWI; Marcus Baylor: drums.

Record Label: Heads Up International

Style: Contemporary/Smooth


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