3

Yellowjackets: A Rise in the Road

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
Yellowjackets: A Rise in the Road With the departure of bassist Jimmy Haslip in 2012, pianist Russell Ferrante is the sole original member, more than three decades after the band's debut recording Yellowjackets (Warner Bros, 1981) set the ball rolling. That said, saxophonist Bob Mintzer has been onboard 22 years and drummer Will Kennedy 14. Not for nothing does the twenty second studio recording sound every bit a Yellowjackets offering—and a fine one at that. New bassist Felix Pastorius has been touring with the band for over a year and in quiet fashion makes the bass chair his own.

Melodically seductive throughout, there's less bite than on Lifecycle (Heads Up, 2008), which featured guitarist Mike Stern and fewer really memorable tunes compared to the exquisite Timeline (Mack Avenue Records, 2011). Nevertheless, A Rise in the Road is a worthy addition to the band's discography. As ever, Ferrante and Mintzer share writing duties and the trademark Yellowjackets sound remains firmly intact; straight-ahead grooves and flowing bop lines co-exist with sprightly jazz-funk, R&B, and the light, orchestral grace that Ferrante has honed on synthesizer since the outstanding Greenhouse (GRP, 1991).

The up-tempo "When the Lady Dances" starts with a jaunty piano intro before Ferrante and Mintzer fuse on boppish unison lines. Mintzer's unmistakable tenor bounces with R&B swagger over Pastorius' walking bass. Ferrante's singing right-hand response sounds equally celebratory. Ferrante and Mintzer are closely bound once again on the mellifluous "Civil War," with Ferrante on keyboards and Kennedy and Pastorius keeping it simple and in the pocket. Conventional in form these tunes may be, but they're also melodically, harmonically and rhythmically engaging. And as always, the Yellowjackets sound like no-one but themselves.

The funky piano ostinato on "Can't We Elope" tips a wink to pianist Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island"; guest trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire broadens the sonic palette in harmony with Mintzer before they alternate lively solos. Akinmusire and Mintzer are again protagonists on "An Informed Decision" but just when they seem set to really rip in an extended back and forth the song teasingly fades. Frustratingly, this is also the case on the boppish charger "An Amber Shade of Blue," though Akinmusire gets to exercise his considerable chops before the producer's accursed fade dial turns. It leaves you wanting more, which is what the band's memorable live shows are for.

The balladic "Longing" has an alluring cinematic grandeur, with Pastorius and Mintzer weaving a quiet spell over Ferrante's ethereal tinkling while Kennedy subtly stirs the pot. Pastorious displays heartfelt lyricism on another Ferrante ballad, ("You'll Know) When It's Time," while "Thank You" and "Madrugada" are elegant slices of Yellowjackets tune 'n' groove. The tropical air of "I Knew His Father" pays joyous tribute to Pastorius father, bassist Jaco Pastorius whose Word of Mouth big band featured Mintzer in the early 1980s.

The road has been a long one for the Yellowjackets and rarely has it been straight—half a dozen members have come and gone and as many record companies. Yet through it all the music has never stood still. On this showing, there are clearly plenty more laps of the planet left in the tank.

Track Listing: When The Lady Dances; Civil War; Can’t We Elope; An Informed Decision; Longing; Thank You; Madrugada; An Amber Shade of Blue; (You’ll Know) When It’s Time; I Knew His Father.

Personnel: Russell Ferrante: piano, keyboards; Bob Mintzer: tenor saxophone; Wil Kennedy: drums; Felix Pastorius: electric bass; Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet (3-4, 8)

Title: A Rise In The Road | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Mack Avenue Records


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Saluting Sgt. Pepper CD/LP/Track Review Saluting Sgt. Pepper
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Thick as Thieves CD/LP/Track Review Thick as Thieves
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Dream Within A Dream CD/LP/Track Review Dream Within A Dream
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Live At The High Noon CD/LP/Track Review Live At The High Noon
by Doug Collette
Published: June 22, 2017
Read As It Should Be: Ballads 2 CD/LP/Track Review As It Should Be: Ballads 2
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 21, 2017
Read Karoujite CD/LP/Track Review Karoujite
by John Eyles
Published: June 21, 2017
Read "Love Song" CD/LP/Track Review Love Song
by Tyran Grillo
Published: September 19, 2016
Read "Michael Gamble and The Rhythm Serenaders" CD/LP/Track Review Michael Gamble and The Rhythm Serenaders
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 19, 2016
Read "Elegy" CD/LP/Track Review Elegy
by John Kelman
Published: January 20, 2017
Read "Black Shuck" CD/LP/Track Review Black Shuck
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: December 17, 2016
Read "Alcanza" CD/LP/Track Review Alcanza
by Troy Dostert
Published: May 25, 2017
Read "The Broader Picture" CD/LP/Track Review The Broader Picture
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 8, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.