February 27 - February 28, 2009
For more than 25 years, the Grammy Award winning ensemble the Yellowjackets have pushed the boundaries of improvisational jazz, and have been leaders in the music's inescapable evolution. The Yellowjackets began as the Robben Ford Group, a three-piece backup unit assembled for the guitarist's 1977 release, "The Inside Story." However, when Ford and his band headed in different creative directions, keyboardist Russell Ferrante, bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Ricky Lawson renamed themselves the Yellowjackets and released their self-titled debut album in 1981. Throughout the 90s, the Jackets continued to explore a diverse cross-section of sound and rhythm. They entered the new millennium with their self-released Mint Jam, recorded live at the Mint in Los Angeles in July 2001 and released the following year. The two-disc set was nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. Backing up the regular lineup of original members Russell Ferrante, Jimmy Haslip as well as Bob Mintzer on Mint Jam is drummer Marcus Baylor, who has since become a permanent member of the band. Time Squared, the follow up to Mint Jam, was released on Heads Up in May 2003. Their first studio recording in five years, Time Squared captures much of the energy and spontaneity that made Mint Jam a formidable Grammy contender. Peace Round, the 2004 holiday album, includes several traditional holiday songs, each with a unique contemporary jazz spin. Altered State, released in March 2005, continues to merge the traditional with the progressive by exploring unusual time signatures and exotic rhythms. The Yellowjackets celebrated their milestone 25th anniversary with the 2006 CD/DVD release of the aptly titled Twenty-Five, which captured live performance in France and Italy. In the summer of 2007, the Yellowjackets were joined by guitar virtuoso Mike Stern for some electrifying performances at the Montreal Jazz Festival. The dates served as the catalyst for Lifecycle, a Jackets/Stern studio collaboration that just garnered the Yellowjackets two more Grammy nominations in the Best Contemporary Jazz Album Category for Lifecycle featuring Mike Stern and Russell Ferrante received a nomination for Best Instrumental Composer for "Claire's Closet" on Lifecycle. Lifecycle is the first Yellowjackets recording in 15 years to feature a guitar player, and illustrates the kind of energy and creative brilliance that results when five talented players pool their individual skills as songwriters and musicians and merge into an entity that's far greater than the sum of its parts.