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Yellowjackets: Timeline

Mark F. Turner By

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To have worked thirty years in the business is exceptional for any band, especially in jazz. But since 1981, pianist/keyboardist Russell Ferrante and bassist Jimmy Haslip have maintained the award-winning Yellowjackets—from that year's eponymous Warner Bros. debut, with its infectious blend of fusion and funk, featuring guitarist Robben Ford, and the incorporation of jazz and strings in Greenhouse (GRP, 1991), with multi-reed master Bob Mintzer, to the twentieth anniversary double-CD Mint Jam (Yellowjackets Ent., 2001)—and the group's beat, in its varied forms and a few personnel changes, continues to live on and on.

Timeline is the Yellowjacket's 21st release, and begins with the seriously hip "Why Is It," marked by the swarming harmonies of Mintzer's bass clarinet and Ferrante's keyboards, held together by the glutinous rhythm section of Haslip and the pulsating traps of drummer Will Kennedy, who joined the band in 1986, but left after 15 years, only to reunite with the group again in 2010. The signature sound is still intact—one that helped to define the better qualities of contemporary jazz—music that is artistic, played to the hilt, and yet remains accessible to wider audiences. Whether pumping up the groove in Mintzer's "Tenacity," laying down a chamber music vibe in Ferrante's "Indivisible," or paying respect to the great Elvin Jones with guest trumpeter John Daversa in "Like Elvin." The set showcases the band's depth and insightful nature.

A bluesman at heart, Ford makes a guest appearance in "Magnolia," bringing back pleasant memories with some dirty wah-wah effects. But Timeline's pacing suffers a bit from the placing of too many ballads and not enough "oomph," as adventurous composition takes a back seat to a more mellowed flow, in contrast to past releases. There may be room for a little nostalgia, but after thirty years, the 'Jackets have accomplished the damn-near impossible, by staying together and continuing to deliver good music.

Track Listing: Why is It; Tenacity; Rosemary; Timeline; Magnolia; A Single Step; Indivisible; Like Elvin; My Soliloquy; Numerology; I Do.

Personnel: Russell Ferrante: piano, keyboards; Jimmy Haslip: bass; Bob Mintzer: saxophones, bass clarinet; Will Kennedy: drums, keyboards; Robben Ford; guitar (5); John Daversa: trumpet (2, 8).

Title: Timeline | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Mack Avenue Records

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