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Yellowjackets, The Best of Yellowjackets (64:07); 47585-2, 1999
Warner Bros. Records
75 Rockefeller Plaza, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-275-4500
Cyberhome: www.wbjazz.com


From this greatest hits collection one learns that the album to get 
is 1981's Yellowjackets, the one with the honeycomb cover. The 
album to avoid, on the other hand, is 1985's Samurai Samba. 
Mirage  Trois, released in 1983, falls somewhere in between. 
Sweepingly general overview: The group started out great with 
fire-breathing guitarist Robben Ford, went through a cheesy middle 
period with altoist Marc Russo, and bounced back in the 90s with the 
advent of tenor-meister Bob Mintzer, who plays on Dreamland 
(1995), Blue Hats (1997) and Club Nocturne (1998). 
(This Warner Bros. compilation features only the group's Warner Bros. 
releases. They recorded with MCA from 1986-1989 and GRP from 
1990-1993.)
	You'll immediately want to program out weak tracks like "Daddy's 
Gonna Miss You" and "Homecoming." On the other hand, "Imperial Strut" 
flat out rocks. Unfortunately, however, this is the disc's only 
satisfying taste of Robben Ford. The other top two cuts are Mintzer's 
"Up From New Orleans," featuring hip vocals and scatting by Kurt 
Elling, and "Summer Song," a seductive bossa nova by keyboardist 
Russell Ferrante and bassist Jimmy Haslip with truly incredible 
vocalizing by Bobby McFerrin. Also worth repeated listens are 
Mintzer's "New Rochelle" (named for this writer's hometown) and the 
theme from the film Il Postino, previously unreleased, which starts 
out sounding like typical movie music but ultimately showcases 
Ferrante's jazz creds on acoustic piano. Haslip's bass playing is 
powerful throughout, especially on "Spirit of the West." And drummers 
Ricky Lawson and William Kennedy are pretty much flawless.
	Of all the fusion-veering-toward-pop bands, the Yellowjackets 
have the most going for them. A recent Downbeat story on the politics 
of jazz radio mentioned that they've been systematically shut out of 
all mass-market programming. The guys in the band aren't happy, for 
obvious financial reasons. But artistically, it's probably a very 
good sign.
~David R. Adler, 3/11/00

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