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Yellowjackets

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In 1977, Robben Ford assembled a group of veteran session musicians to record his album The Inside Story. The trio of musicians, which included keyboardist Russell Ferrante, bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Ricky Lawson, soon discovered a certain "chemistry" and musical affinity that led to their formation of Yellowjackets. The Inside Story being mainly instrumental, Robben Ford's record label wanted him to record another album that was more pop and vocal oriented. The group, known as the Robben Ford Group, preferred to pursue the instrumental route, and a "band within a band" was formed. This same group with Robben Ford on guitar recorded digital demos that were eventually accepted by Warner Brothers, and Yellowjackets was born. While Robben's contributions would diminish over the years to being a guest artist, the group known as Yellowjackets would flourish.    

 

Their debut album Yellowjackets made serious waves in jazz radio, garnering public and critical acclaim. Mirage A Trois followed in its footsteps. While they went on a brief hiatus to pursue other projects, they reassembled in time for the 1984 Playboy Jazz Festival, adding percussionist Paulinho Da Costa and their new lead voice, sax man Marc Russo. This landmark concert paved the way for their eventual success both on the Billboard Jazz charts and concert venues around the world, and resulted in the third spicy Yellowjackets album Samurai Samba. 1986 saw the group moving over to MCA Records to record Shades, the title track being written by Donald Fagen (of Steely Dan fame) as a tribute to the many "shades" he heard in the group's music.     With their album Four Corners, Ricky Lawson departed to join Lionel Richie's touring band and was replaced by the versatile William Kennedy. This rock-solid lineup took the Yellowjackets into new territory, exploring world beats and densely-populated soundscapes that reflected a growing maturity in their music.      

 

With 1995's Dreamland, Yellowjackets returned to their first record label, Warner Brothers, producing their most relaxed, and relaxing, recording to date. Blue Hats is more spontaneous than its predecessors, musically rich and particularly revealing in showing how Yellowjackets have evolved since that landmark first album. Club Nocturne, their latest studio recording, achieves great crossover appeal with the guest vocalists Kurt Elling, Jonathan Butler and Brenda Russell. And while the Yellowjackets of today sound little like the original Yellowjackets from fifteen-plus years ago at first listen, the unmistakable talents of the individuals involved still have the unique signatures that shine through regardless of their musical setting, whether it be blistering-hot fusion or full-blown acoustic jazz.     

 

In early 2000, the Yellowjackets were once again a trio, with Russell, Jimmy and Bob using different drummers as they continue touring throughout the year. Two of the fine drummers they've hooked up with were Marcus Baylor and Terri Lynn Carrington. For 2000, the band also saw a change in management, and Jimmy's long-awaited (and long-delayed) solo recording, Red Heat, was released later in the summer.    

 

In 2001, the band self-released the pivotal live "Mint Jam" recording, with Marcus Baylor now essentially the band's full-time drummer. Since that time, the Jackets signed a deal with the HeadsUp International label, and have since released "Time Squared", the holiday release "Peace Round" and, most recently, "Altered State".

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