Veteran jazz band keeps rollin’ on!
Yellowjackets – Parallel Motion – Mack Avenue Music Group MAC1196, 56:01 ****:
(Russell Ferrante – piano, keyboards; Bob Mintzer – tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Will Kennedy – drums, keyboards; Dane Anderson – electric bass; Jean Baylor – guest vocals)
After 43 years, 25 albums and 17 Grammy nominations, The Yellowjackets have maintained their status as an elite jazz band. Originally formed in 1977 to back up guitarist Robben Ford, the group eventually (a trio at the time) forged their own destiny. Combining various elements of contemporary jazz, The Yellowjackets have reformed as a quartet (founding member Russelll Ferrante/keyboards; Bob Mintzer/reeds; Will Kennedy/drums and Dane Anderson/bass). The new album, Parallel Motion is the band’s fifth for Mack Avenue Music.
Parallel Motion boasts original compositions from all four members. The opening track (written by Mintzer) employs a concise groove with a dialogue between saxophone and the rhythm section. His playing is crisp and lyrical, and he hands off to Anderson for an extended sprightly electric bass solo. Ferrante is up next with a jaunty run featuring chords and right hand notation. The quartet returns for a reprise. It is a soulful performance. “Challenging Times” ( a Ferrante tune) follows a similar arrangement with muscular sax and a tightly constructed cadence. Mimtzer is more freewheeling and when Ferrante takes over, there is a classic soul jazz/fusion vibe. The title track has a slower more deliberate groove as piano, bass and drums weave sinuously around the tenor saxophone. Ferrante’s articulate run is complemented by a grandiose saxophone and hypnotic resonance. With synthesizers and an overall “spacey’ aural landscape, “Onyx Manor” has interesting chord changes and a palpable halting funk core (by composer Anderson). Ferrante shifts to electric piano and engages in exchanges with the group, approximating early 70’s jazz flair.
In a melodic change of pace, Kennedy’s “Samaritan” has a gentler flow with Mintzer soaring against the flourishing accompaniment by Ferrante. As on many of the trucks, there is stellar unison play between these two. Ferrite’s delicate touch on his solo is noteworthy. “Il Mio Amico” is a showcase for Ferrante’s ethereal piano and Mintzer’s emotional soprano saxophone. Ferrante delivers a nuanced solo. With a saucy vamp, “Resilience” is a straight- ahead jazz treatment, with trademark unison opening before giving way to forceful tenor lead. Ferrante’s silky touch is a nice counterpoint. His third original, “If You Believe” is a late-night ballad (with guest vocalist Jean Baylor) of understated dynamics and distilled melodic exploration. The finale, “Early” picks up the pace with a funky tapestry combining electric piano and saxophone, glowing in unison. The two soloists trade off seamlessly and the drums and bass tighten up the jam. There is a steady pulse with a compelling halt and re-start at the 3:00 mark.
Parallel Motion is great, accessible jazz.
TrackList: Intrigue; Challenging Times; Parallel Motion; Onyx Manor; Samaritan; Il Mio Amico; Resilience; If You Believe; Early.
For more information, please visit Mack Avenue