Named after a rather unpleasant insect, founded by a guitar superstar to back him but then dropped, the Los Angeles-based Yellowjacketsdespite it allcontinue to forge ahead. There's something of the MJQ about them: they dress well (if casually) and play a brand of jazz that is discreet and refined, sometimes almost to the point of becoming background music.
Of the musicians picked as a backing group by Robben Ford in 1977, only Russell Ferrante (keyboards) remains. Now with the addition of Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza, scatting and singing in both English and Portuguese, a totally new dimension is added to the Yellowjackets sound.
Daughter of bossa nova songwriters, Souza grew up steeped in saudade, the yearning for something lost, that is a vital ingredient of Brazilian music and that can even be a kind of pleasure. She says of the Jackets: "They're killers. They are so serious yet also so much fun. We laughed a lot during the sessions. Their c withuriosity is alive and their joy is to make great music." Raising Our Voices features three Yellowjacket tunes re-arranged to include her, mostly in the context of blending with Bob Mintzer's saxophone. On "Man Facing North" she follows Mintzer into a light and airy musical territory, then on "Timeline" she sings "against" his sax before soaring off on her own. Perhaps most successfully, she melds sinuously with his saxophone on "Solitude."
It is bassist Dane Alderson's second recording with the Jackets. He composed "Brotherly" to mark the occasion. It's a choppy piece held together by his bass with Mintzer's tenor and Souza's vocal underpinned by drummer William Kennedy.
Ferrante says; "We hadn't been playing a lot live, so most of these tunes came alive in the studio and were sparked by the electricity and chemistry with Luciana." His own contribution to the album is "Mutuality," based for its inspiration on a Martin Luther King speech. "It really connects to the title of the album, which has a political slant. It's about waking up to see what's going on," he saysmost likely with a nervous eye on current happenings in the Trump White House.
Man Facing North; Mutuality; Everyone Else Is Taken; Ecuador; Strange Time; Emerge; Timeline; Quiet; Divert; Brotherly; Swing With It; In Search Of; Solitude.
Russell Ferrante: keyboards; Bob Mintzer: saxophones; Dane Alderson: bass; William Kennedy: drums; Luciana Souza: vocals.
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