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Leverkusener Jazztage, 2015
|Origin||Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
|Labels||MCA, GRP, Heads Up, Mack Avenue, Warner Bros., Yellowjackets Enterprises|
|Associated acts||Mike Stern|
Formed in 1977 and known originally as the Robben Ford Group, the Yellowjackets consisted of Robben Ford, Russell Ferrante, Jimmy Haslip and Ricky Lawson, all L.A. session musicians. Ford assembled this lineup to record his 1979 solo album The Inside Story. During this initial period the band's sound combined blues, jazz fusion, and progressive rock. Over the next year the group began moving in a more democratic direction, eliminating Ford's vocals and embracing a more commercially oriented jazz-funk approach.
The band signed with Warner Bros. as Yellowjackets. Ford, however, was still signed to a separate record contract with Elektra and ended up listed as a guest artist on the band's 1981 debut under the Yellowjackets name. During the tour to support the album the lineup was augmented by second guitarist Michael Landau. Eventually Ford was replaced by saxophone player Richard Elliot who appeared only on the Mirage a Trois album before switching places in 1984 with Tower of Power alto saxophonist Marc Russo. Drummer Ricky Lawson left in 1986 to tour with Lionel Richie.
Select Yellowjackets songs were featured on The Weather Channel's Local on the 8s segments, with the Ferrante composition "Matinee Idol" being the most well-known.
While Yellowjackets made their 1981 debut as a jazz-fusion band that highlighted guitarist Robben Ford, the group's sound became more R&B-oriented after Ford's departure with Marc Russo's crisp alto saxophone and soaring high-register solos. With original members Russell Ferrante on keyboards and electric bassist Jimmy Haslip, and new drummer William Kennedy, the band found its own R&B-ish sound, sometimes playing original compositions that sounded like Joe Zawinul at his most melodic.
Starting out on Warner Brothers in the early '80s, the Yellowjackets moved to MCA/GRP in 1986, where they released a string of well-received albums. They also appeared with two songs on soundtrack Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. They are frequently at festivals like Indy Jazz Fest.
In the '90s, Russo chose to go out on his own and plays regularly with The Doobie Brothers. His replacement, Bob Mintzer (on tenor and bass clarinet), added more jazz credibility to the group's music. They moved back to Warner Brothers in 1995 for several albums before moving to Heads Up International for the live two-CD set Mint Jam in 2002. 2003 saw the release of their first studio album in five years, Time Squared. Three years later, the band celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary as an ensemble with the release of the live album Twenty Five.
In May 2008, the Yellowjackets released their 20th release, Lifecycle, also on Heads Up International. Lifecycle features guitarist and label-mate Mike Stern, making it the first Yellowjackets record in 15 years to feature guitar (1994's Run For Your Life featured Robben Ford on the track Even Song). The album was nominated for the 2009 Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. Russell Ferrante was nominated for Best Instrumental Composer for the track "Claire's Closet."
On January 30, 2012, Felix Pastorius announced on the social media website, Facebook, that he will be replacing original bassist Jimmy Haslip for about a year. "I guess its official, I'm a yellowjacket!" Pastorius stated in his Facebook post, he said that Haslip is "healthy and happy and just wanted to take the year off to focus on other things...". Consequently, in June, 2013, this new group released a new studio album, A Rise in the Road, with Felix Pastorius on bass – on some of the tracks actually playing Jaco Pastorius' original fretless bass, loaned from its current owner, Metallica's Robert Trujillo. On April 20, 2015, Russell Ferrante announced on the Yellowjackets forum that Dane Alderson would be taking over the bass duties from Felix Pastorius.
Awards and honors
- Jazz Fusion Performance: Mirage a Trois (1984), Four Corners (1987)
- Contemporary Jazz Performance: Greenhouse (1992), Like a River (1994), Run for Your Life (1995), Dreamland (1996), Club Nocturne (1999)
- Contemporary Jazz Album: Mint Jam (2003), Time Squared (2004), Lifecycle (2009)
- Jazz Instrumental Performance: The Spin (1990)
- Instrumental Composition: "Claire's Closet", Russell Ferrante (2009)
- 1981: Yellowjackets
- 1983: Mirage a Trois
- 1985: Samurai Samba
- 1986: Shades
- 1987: Four Corners
- 1988: Politics
- 1989: The Spin (1990)
- 1991: Greenhouse
- 1992: Live Wires
- 1993: Like a River
- 1994: Run for Your Life
- 1995: Collection
- 1995: Dreamland
- 1997: Blue Hats
- 1998: Priceless Jazz
- 1998: Club Nocturne
- 1999: The Best of the Yellowjackets
- 2001: Mint Jam
- 2003: Time Squared
- 2003: Peace Round: A Christmas Celebration
- 2005: Altered State
- 2006: Twenty-Five
- 2008: Lifecycle – featuring Mike Stern
- 2011: Timeline
- 2013: A Rise in the Road
- 2016: Cohearence
- Russell Ferrante – keyboards, synthesizers (1977–present)
- Bob Mintzer – saxophones, bass clarinet, EWI (1991–present)
- Will Kennedy – drums, percussions (1987–1999, 2010–present)
- Dane Alderson – bass (2015–present)
- Jimmy Haslip – bass (1977–2012)
- Ricky Lawson – drums (1977–1987; died 2013)
- Robben Ford – guitar (1977–1978)
- Michael Landau - guitar (1981)
- Marc Russo – saxophones (1985–1989)
- Peter Erskine – drums (1999-2000)
- Terri Lyne Carrington – drums (2000)
- Marcus Baylor – drums (2000–2010)
- Felix Pastorius – bass (2012–2015)
- "2011 Artists". Retrieved July 19, 2011.
- Brown, Corey (2012-01-30). "Felix Pastorius Joining the Yellowjackets". Notreble.com. Retrieved 2015-06-26.
- "Record Store Tuesday: Felix Pastorius' emotional struggle using father Jaco's bass on new Yellowjackets album". Nydailynews.com. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
- "Yellowjackets Forum Post on Dane Alderson joining the band". yellowjackets.com. 2015-04-20. Retrieved 2016-01-25.
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