It would be incredibly unfair to refer to the YellowJackets as a revolving door for wayward musicians no matter how accurate that statement may be. Bob Mintzer who is perhaps the consummate woodwind performer replaced Marc Russo and the drum chair has been reshuffled countless times yet oddly enough never missing a beat (pun intended). The immediate elephant in the room would have to be the departure of original member and bassist extraordinaire Jimmy Haslip. Most faithful followers of the band would tell you replacing an artist the caliber of a Jimmy Haslip could prove to be nearly impossible yet the addition of Felix Pastorius (yes, THAT Pastorius) has proven to be a stroke of pure artistic genius and has allowed the YellowJackets sound the opportunity to continue it's revolution along the sonic spectrum of tonal exploratory developed and executed with the precision of a surgeon.
The title, A Rise In The Road is a whimsical acknowledgement of the challenges people face in carrying out the demands and obligations of their daily existence. Nothing is guaranteed to go as planned but meeting that proverbial rise in the road is the challenge of both a personal and artistic evolution allowing the individual to grow exponentially in their development both on a personal and professional level. Back to the addition of Pastorius, Felix Pastorius was able to use his father's bass on the recording marking the first time in close to 30 years that the instrument has been used on a new recording. Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo is a family friend and owns Jaco's bass and was kind enough to loan out the treasured instrument for this special recording.
The YellowJackets brought a democratic rule to the ensemble and thus successfully turned a great band into a more open ended jazz collective where all voices have the chance to operate on an equal footing and all input is carefully scrutinized. Russell Ferrante contributes a significant amount of original compositions with perhaps his riff on Herbie Hancock's Cantaloupe Island which morphed into Can't We Elope stealing the spotlight. Bob Mintzer composed the aptly titled "I Knew His Father" both as a fitting homage to Jaco Pastorius and a welcome aboard to son Felix Pastorius. Ambrose Akinmusire makes a cameo appearance on "An Informed Decision" an "An Amber Shade of Blue" and "Can't We Elope." While the tunes may be classic in approach, the music was cut all most entirely live in the studio and the ability to work without a net at such a high level shows the stars were in perfect alignment for this recording.
In terms of major surprise on A Rise In The Road, keep looking...What works so incredibly well is the lack of overdubs and the resulting warm and all most organic live feel that transcends the confines of a shiny silver disc and turns the ordinary and expected into the extraordinary and sublime. Change is never a bad thing, it is just different.
Tracks: When The Lady Dances; Civil War; Can't We Elope; An Informed Decision; Longing; Thank You; Madrugada; An Amber Shade of Blue; You'll Know When It's Time; I Knew His Father.
Personnel: Russell Ferante: keyboards, piano; Bob Mintzer: sax; William Kennedy: drums, keyboards; Felix Pastorius: bass; Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet.
Photo Credit Marc Vanocur