Thursday, June 12, 2008
Beginning their life more than 25 years ago as guitarist Robben Ford’s backing band, the rhythm section of Russell Ferrante on keyboards, bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Ricky Lawson eventually went their own way becoming The Yellowjackets. While there’s now a new drummer, as well as the addition of acoustic and electric saxophonist Bob Mintzer, the ensemble has stayed true to their post-Weather Report, Miles Davis fusion-influenced mold. For their 20th release they’ve gone back to their guitar-oriented roots by adding chops-master Mike Stern.
While you’d think this pairing would kick some new life into a band that always plays at an incredibly high artistic level, this recording only half-delivers. Of all the participants, it’s Mintzer who seems the most energized by the experience. His crashing cascades of altered scale tones on “Country Living” are incredible. Stern, on the other hand, seems a bit complacent; except for his scorching angularly driven lines on “I Wonder” and innovative swing-backed flights on “Double Nickel.” The fireworks such a pairing would imply rarely come.