Although I’d heard of the “Yellowjackets” while in college during
the 1980’s, I’d never seen them perform. Recently, I watched a
1994 live concert filmed at the Ohne Filter Studios in Germany.
The 57-minute set of seven songs consisted of performances
by keyboardist Russell Ferrante (1952 – ), electric bassist
Jimmy Haslip (1951 – ), saxophonist Bob Mintzer (1953 – )
and drummer Will Kennedy.
While these songs could often be referred to as
“straight ahead Jazz” as opposed to “Fusion,” I suppose that
they’ve been labeled as a Fusion band due to their use of
electronic instruments, as well as their ability to combine
elements of Easy Listening/Pop with solid Jazz techniques.
However, this was my first exposure to this band and was
not based upon a thorough assessment.
Besides, it’s been my experience that most well-known
Fusion bands don’t care for that label. What’s important is
that these players are highly skilled on their respective
instruments, resulting in some incredible music making.
This was also my first exposure to an EWI
(electric wind instrument), played by Bob Mintzer on the tune,
“Dewey.” It was about the same size as a soprano saxophone,
but shaped like a box and apparently hooked up to a synthesizer.
I was also impressed with Jimmy Haslip’s playing, during
which he often performed astonishing electric equivalents to
fast upright bass “walking” patterns. Russell Ferrante occasionally
used a tone on his two keyboards that sounded remarkably
like a soprano saxophone, but usually confined his playing
to the sound of an acoustic piano.
Although the roots of this band date back to 1977, their
first album was released during 1981, which probably coincides
with their initial brush with fame. It appears that Ferrante and
Haslip are the two constant band members, with a variety of
saxophonists and drummers going through their ranks.
This is yet another fine Ohne Filter DVD, which I can
recommend to Jazz enthusiasts without hesitation.