Yellowjackets - Timeline (Advance Review) (2011)

Yellowjackets

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Call them the Toto of the jazz world. Since their inception in 1981, the Yellowjackets have recorded an impressive 20 albums and, in their own down time, buzzed around music royalty including: Kiss, Chaka Khan, Al Jarreau, Anita Baker, Gregg Allman, Jonathan Butler and dozens more. Timeline, their first for Mack Avenue Records, plants the Grammy-award winning jazz fusion quartet into the gravitas of crossover jazz, relying heavily on Bob Mintzer's sax solos and Russell Ferrante's spasmodic keyboards. It doesn't flow with the glistening ambience of Four Corners, but it carries a smart atmospheric hum that feels seasoned and dependable-elements all too familiar with the Yellowjackets' repertoire.

Call them the Toto of the jazz world. Since their inception in 1981, the Yellowjackets have recorded an impressive 20 albums and, in their own down time, buzzed around music royalty including: Kiss, Chaka Khan, Al Jarreau, Anita Baker, Gregg Allman, Jonathan Butler and dozens more. Timeline, their first for Mack Avenue Records, plants the Grammy-award winning jazz fusion quartet into the gravitas of crossover jazz, relying heavily on Bob Mintzer's sax solos and Russell Ferrante's spasmodic keyboards. It doesn't flow with the glistening ambience of Four Corners, but it carries a smart atmospheric hum that feels seasoned and dependable-elements all too familiar with the Yellowjackets' repertoire.

Mintzer's "Why Is It" kicks off the album with the uttermost funk sophistication. The mellow warmth of "A Single Step" and the moonshine of "Tenacity" provide the right aura for intimate mood music. As a bonus treat, former member and co-founder Robben Ford reassembles with the band on the standout bluesy gospel drencher "Magnolia." Lest we forget, there is also the delightful "Like Elvin," a sweet homage to drummer Elvin Jones, which promises to charm jazz aficionados using its swinging Coltrane-esque triplet inflection.

Thanks to old fashioned cooperative teamwork, it's easy to hear how seamlessly the Yellowjacket's thick grooves gel together throughout this set, an effortless flow that usually only happens with a band sporting this kind of longevity. Ferrante's moody piano chords are smart responses to Jimmy Haslip's bass lines, while Will Kennedy's drumming proves to be the appropriate heartbeat for Mintzer's sax attacks.

Although a few lead guitar injections or the occasional slip of some recreational rock would've ramped up some serious crossover jazz here, Timeline is a satisfying listen loaded with cozy and hypnotic flights. Even with a thirty-year existence cast over their heads like a relic marquee, the guys continue to prove to be a brute force in jazzland. Their energies never slip into boredom and Timeline sounds just as good and challenging as their previous output.

Notable Tracks: "Magnolia," "Why Is It," and "A Single Step."

Vocals: n/a
Music: 3.0 stars
Lyrics: n/a 
Production: 3.5 stars
SoulTracks Call: Recommended

By J Matthew Cobb

 
Choice Cut - Maysa - "Lovin' You Is Easy"

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