Monday, February 28, 2011

Yellowjackets: The Best Of (1999)

The Yellowjackets began their recording career on the Warner Brothers label in 1981, recording three albums before moving to GRP where the band found commercial success during a ten-year stay. In 1995, they returned to the Warner fold to produce some of their best, maturest music. Dreamland, Blue Hats, and Club Nocturne found the band presenting contemporary jazz music of the highest caliber. However, this music had too much depth to qualify for the smooth jazz radio playlists of the late 1990s. As the year 2000 dawned, Warner released this fine compilation of Yellowjackets' work for that label. It's an interesting musical document which shows the beginnings of the band in their original incarnation with L.A. Express guitar alumnus Robben Ford, and later finding their voice after his departure. Then there's a ten-year quantum leap to the unmatched musical sophistication of the latter trio of classy recordings with Bob Mintzer in the sax chair. The producer's choice not to arrange the tracks in chronological order is probably a smart one from a listening standpoint. Still there's quite a juxtaposition between the rich complexities of the opening "New Rochelle" and "Spirit of the West," and the pop-styled '80s fusion/funk of "Daddy's Gonna Miss You" and "Matinee Idol" that follow. The pleasures of both eras cannot be denied, however, and this disc is rewarding from start to finish. "The Chosen" and "Summer Song" from Dreamland remain superb, and Kurt Elling's vocal on Mintzer's "Up From New Orleans is a classic awaiting discovery. Samurai Samba's "Homecoming" should be familiar, and the previously unreleased "Theme From Il Postino" provides a reason for the Yellowjackets completist to own this disc. Taken with Collection from the GRP era, The Best of Yellowjackets gives a tiny glimpse at the music of this excellent group, priming the pump for further exploration of their recorded legacy. ~ Jim Newsom
Personnel: Bobby McFerrin (vocals, percussion); Robben Ford, Carlos Rios (guitar); Bob Mintzer (soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone); Marc Russo (alto saxophone); Ernie Watts (tenor saxophone); Russell Ferrante (keyboards); Ricky Lawson, William Kennedy (drums); Lenny Castro, Luis Conte, Paulinho Da Costa (percussion); Rory Kaplan (programming)
01. New Rochelle
02. Spirit Of The West
03. Daddy's Gonna Miss You
04. Matinee Idol
05. The Chosen
06. Homecoming
07. Imperial Strut
08. Claire's Song
09. Top Secret
10. Up From New Orleans
11. Summer Song
12. Theme From Il Postino
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