Yellowjackets, After 35 Years, Believe in 'Cohearence' on New Mack Avenue Release [REVIEW]

By Mike Greenblatt on Apr 25, 2016 02:39 PM EDT
Yellowjackets Yellowjackets celebrate 35 years with 'Cohearence.' (Photo : Marc Vanocur)

They said it couldn't last. When Yellowjackets came to be, critics scoffed. After all, in 1981, acoustic "New Traditionalism," as led by Wynton Marsalis, was totally in vogue. An electric jazz band that formed from the funky fragments of L.A. Express guitarist Robben Ford's own pop-oriented 1977 band, Yellowjackets seemed doomed from the start. Fusion fans already had Weather Report to salivate over. Yellowjackets were seen as a poor man's lightweight alternative. Thirty-five years later, Cohearence (Mack Avenue Records) makes all that history laughable.

With their new Australian electric bassist Dane Alderson (check out his virtuosity in the video below), Russell Ferrante (piano/synthesizer), William Kennedy (drums/synthesizer) and Bob Mintzer (tenor sax, soprano sax, bass clarinet and flute) have made an eminently listenable, functional, entertaining, all-original (but for the folk classic "Shenandoah") and, yeah, funky CD. Mintzer also plays an electric wind instrument (EWI) which has a very cool sound as it basically synthesizes and "controls" the human wind it needs.

Road-tested for five months, these originals do not lack in originality, variety, spunk nor creativity. There seems to be a Vulcan mind meld going on here as these guys are super simpatico with each other, like on opener "Golden State" which approximates the hustle and bustle of the L.A. freeway. "Guarded Optimism" is spooky while "Anticipation" is sweet. "Inevitable Outcome" is all tricked-out and synthed-out like a new car with all the extras.

The highlights have to be "Trane Changing" wherein they turn John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" inside-out and upside-down, complete with a counter-melody, and "Eddie's In The House," a tribute to soulful sax man Eddie Harris [1934-1996]. Of course, there are those who will say the highlight is the gorgeous closing title track, a classical/jazz/folk fusion of chamber proportions.

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TagsYellowjackets, REVIEW, Mack Avenue Records, Robben Ford

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