Five by the Yellowjackets – reviewed by Chris Mann
diehard fan of the Yellowjackets will know the band’s history and
will be able to name the fine players who have been band members or
collaborators since 1981. To
them, most if not all of the music on Twenty Five will be instantly
familiar. Heads Up has
made these fans’ dreams come true with its CD/DVD package “Twenty
Five” which chronicles a series of great albums and the
contributions of some of the world’s best contemporary jazz
musicians over a quarter century.
music will be familiar, sure, but all the songs here are re-arranged
and performed live. The
live CD was recorded in Paris on October 17th, 2005 and
features some truly spirited playing on tracks such as Revelation,
Jacket Town and Bob Mintzer’s frantic RunFerYerLife. Fans
of bass solos (my hand goes up) have treats in store as co-founder
Jimmy Haslip cuts loose. The
whole band seems to be nice and relaxed and, on the CD more than on
the DVD, the energy is tangible. The
French audience is very appreciative.
And so they might be – they have the sublime Geraldine
and the mesmeric Greenhouse to enjoy, a total of eight
compositions on this disc.
I played the DVD first because, well, there is just so
much on there! But
let’s talk about the music. The show in Forlí, Italy was recorded
on October 7th, 2005 and there are some real gems here.
My personal favourites are the funky Matinee Idol (where
the groove that Jimmy Haslip and drummer Marcus Baylor lay down is
awesome) and the smile-inducing Imperial Strut with a doubled
piano and bass figure that’s too funky and too complex for words.
If you can work out how Russ Ferrante keeps that bottom end
going with his left hand whilst soloing deftly with his right, you
must be some kind of musician! If
I’d been in Forlí you’d have heard me shouting… this audience
is way too polite.
is an overlap between the songs from the CD and DVD and that’s no
problem at all because you get to hear two takes of Bob Mintzer’s
exquisite intro to Geraldine, you marvel twice at the
breathtaking Greenhouse and choose your favourite version of
the lovely My Old School.
I got massive enjoyment from watching this show, partly because
as a bass player I was fascinated by the way Jimmy Haslip strings his
bass “upside down” but more than that I love the way he rocks, and
I love the way Marcus Baylor flies round his kit.
Russ Ferrante and Bob Mintzer’s doubled keyboard and horn
lines have always stunned me and watching them live it’s all the
more stunning for how easy they make it look.
there you have it – the Yellowjackets’ current line-up digging
into the goodie bag, and they dig deep because my two faves from the
DVD are taken from the band’s 1981 debut album.
They also come right up to date for Free Day from
“Altered State”, their 2005 studio release.
just the start though, because the DVD contains a full discography
with song samples. It
also contains behind-the-scenes footage including a moody black and
white video for Greenhouse (which on its own is worth the cost
of the album) and some archive live footage including Will Kennedy
playing a seriously off-the-chain drum solo on RunFerYerLife.
This and the new recordings you’ve already heard and seen on
“Twenty Five” really do show how many facets this band has.
The picture is made complete by some very enlightening
interviews with current band members plus ‘Jackets alumni Marc
Russo, Will Kennedy, Ricky Lawson and Robben Ford.
insert even contains a full timeline of band memberships and album
Yellowjackets devotee may have seen and heard some of this but I’m
betting that they never had it all in one package like this.
Heads Up – you did a great
job! The audio and
video are of very high quality and the menus and content make this
package a treasure. I’d
love to see you do this for other artists on your roster such as Spyro
Gyra and Andy Narell.
for the ‘Jackets (I feel like we’re family now…) theirs is music
to get lost in. As I have
found in the weeks that I’ve had one disc or another in my DVD
player, it’s not background music – it’s music you make time for
and sit and soak up. In a
way I’ve had a hard time reviewing this album, because I simply
didn’t know where to start. For
anyone who has followed this band’s career, this is like having your
birthday and Christmas come at once.
For someone like me who bought “Four Corners” and “The
Spin” in the early ‘90’s and then sold them when he got into
smooth jazz, this is a revelation.
I feel like I have some catching up to do.
I just ordered my copy of “Dreamland”.
Ferrante states “this is a celebration”.
It’s a 25th birthday party – many happy returns!
Heads Up International
– HUCD 3112 – Producers - Yellowjackets, Executive Producer –