The Yellowjackets are very adept at reinventing… Any setting, any style, we know we can do it.

Bob Mintzer

This week, we’re taking a look at the jazz fusion band the Yellowjackets and some of the longstanding members of it. The Yellowjackets have been a recording/touring entity since 1980, releasing over twenty albums. While the personnel of the band has changed greatly over the years with former members including Peter Erskine, Terri Lyne Carrington, Felix Pastorius, and many others, keyboardist Russell Ferrante has been the one constant. The current iteration of the band features Ferrante, tenor sax giant Bob Mintzer, Dane Alderson on bass, and drummer Will Kennedy. The music from the band ranges from straight ahead offerings to some of the headiest fusion sounds from that sub-genre.

Some albums to check out:

Russell Ferrante (1952 – )

Pianist, keyboardist, and composer Russell Ferrante was born in San Jose, California. His early music exposure was church music, as his father was a church choir director; however, he got bit by the jazz bug at age fifteen through the recordings of John Coltrane and Miles Davis. His first important gigs were with blues/rock players, such as blues singer Jimmy Witherspoon and guitarist Robben Ford, with whom he toured, and his greatest fame came out of a group assembled from Ford’s studio sessions, the Yellowjackets.

Ferrante has also performed with Joni Mitchell, Bobby McFerrin, TAKE 6, Al Jarreau, and the GRP All-Star Big Band. In addition to performing, he conducts numerous clinics around the country, including at Berklee School of Music, and he is an associate professor at the U.S.C. Thornton School of Music.

Here is a song Ferrante wrote for the movie Barnyard, “Freedom is a Voice,” performed by Bobby McFerrin:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAiDCZAvgjo&list=PLfoQhPF6W8CuBpYE_o2J09dq76O_h9pl2

Bob Mintzer (1953 – )

Bob Mintzer is one of the leading voices on tenor saxophone, composing, and bandleading in our time. Trained at the Interlochen Center for the Arts, the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, and the Manhattan School of Music, Mintzer was well-educated in classical clarinet, saxophone, and writing.

His first gigs of note were with Tito Puente and Eumir Deodato, and the Latin music created in these ensembles affected his playing/writing and led to successful collaborations with Eddie Palmieri and Mongo Santamaria.

In 1975, he joined the Buddy Rich Band, where he stayed for two and a half years as a featured soloist and writer, contributing many of the best charts offered by that ensemble during that time. While with Rich, he also wrote for Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Following this, he joined the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra and Jaco Pastorius’ Word of Mouth Jazz Band.

Here is a song Mintzer wrote for the Buddy Rich band, “No Jive”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOYrrQI7QiI

In 1983, he formed his own big band which recorded on the label DMP. This association lasted for twenty-two years, garnering thirteen albums and one Grammy Award. The charts and recording style of these albums were groundbreaking and quite successful. Instead of having everyone in the ensemble with their own microphone, utilizing multi-tracking, and not even seeing one another, Mintzer recorded his albums with a single microphone, and the band set up in a circle around it. This live approach to recording broke the movement towards electronics and brought the thinking behind recording back to jazz’s roots. His charts were very fresh–harmonically unique, they featured the finest players from NYC at the time. These charts became, and remain, pieces that are part of the canon taught to scholastic ensembles.

Listen to one of his more recent big band compositions, “Like A Child”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7GgMUVPBgU 

In addition to his own ensemble, Mintzer’s brilliant playing has been featured on a great deal of side sessions, with the likes of Steve Winwood, Aretha Franklin, James Taylor, Queen, and Diana Ross. In 1990, Mintzer joined the Yellowjackets and has remained a member of this heady fusion ensemble since. He is also on the faculty of the U.S.C. Thornton School of Music, and he and his wife live in the former home of composer Arnold Schoenberg.

Cold Weather? Hot Jazz!

During these cold winter days, there’s nothing like some jazz to heat things up, and the Bop Stop has some great livestreams to offer. In addition to the CJO Little Big Band, you can see other familiar CJO faces grace the stage with various concerts.

Thursday, 1/14, 7 p.m.: CJO pianist Jackie Warren joins Sammy DeLeon for some Latin-infused tunes!

Friday, 1/15, 8 p.m.: CJO guitarist Dan Bruce has a new album fundraiser for his group, the Dan Bruce :Beta Collective. The group is comprised of:

  • Chris Anderson – trombone
  • Theron Brown – keys, melodica
  • Dan Bruce – guitar, compositions
  • Chris Coles – alto/tenor sax, vocoder
  • Aidan Plank – bass
  • Anthony Taddeo – drums/percussion
  • Brad Wagner – soprano/tenor sax, bass clarinet
  • Will Wedmedyk – vibraphone

Check out the FULL Bop Stop line-up for even MORE great music: https://www.themusicsettlement.org/calendar/2021/01

The CJO Little Big Band is Back at the Bop Stop!

Sunday, 1/17, 7 p.m.: the CJO Little Big Band will join forces with the Roots of American Music for a concert titled “The Blues and the Self-Evident Truth – Roots of Music and Democracy.” Presented the evening before MLK day at the Bop Stop, the concert will feature a new rendering of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” music from Chris Coles’ “Nine Lives Suite,” and a new composition from ROAM member Liz Bullock.

Reginald Bowens will be joining as the featured vocalist. It’s a great way to celebrate MLK day and inauguration week!

Are You In The Mood For Love?

Mark your calendars, because on Saturday, February 13th, the CJO Little Big Band will be partnering with internationally acclaimed trumpeter and composer, Dominick Farinacci!

Settle in with your sweetie for an evening of jazz, as the Bop Stop presents another great livestream show!

Check our site, clevelandjazz.org, for more details!