SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
Yellowjackets, featuring Mike Stern – Lifecycle – Heads Up
Published on May 19, 2008
(The Yellowjackets are: Jimmy Haslip, elec. bass; Russell Ferrante, keyboards & percussion; Marcus Baylor, drums & percussion; Bob Mintzer, reeds & EWI; Guest: Mike Stern, guitars)
The jazz/fusion quartet The Yellowjackets started out over 25 years ago as guitarist Robben Ford’s Group. Most of their career under the Yellowjackets name they have been a quartet without guitar, but now – after playing with top electric guitarist Mike Stern at a jazz festival – they have released their first guitar-centered album in 15 years. Stern has played with both Miles Davis and Jaco Pastorius, and had his own Heads Up disc a couple years ago: Who Let the Cats Out? The new collaborative effort has two original tunes from Stern, with the rest of the ten tracks coming from the various group members. Stern doesn’t play on every single track; three showcase the talents of the quartet without the guitarist.
The band seems to be struggling to find themselves a tune during the initial three tracks. Second up is Country Living, which by the title you’d think might have a catchy tune in it somewhere; it doesn’t. There’s some odd time signatures among these tunes; perhaps the musicians were concentrating on that and less on the melodic/harmonic side. By Dreams Go, a Stern contribution, we have a lovely ballad that reminded me of some of the dreamy music of Pat Metheny. 3 Circles is a very high energy and very electronic track featuring a blazing solo by Stern. The entire quintet works together smoothly on the track Lazaro, which is a nice and bouncy conclusion to the outing. However, I found myself a bit less enthusiastic about this SACD than previous Yellowjackets releases. Recording quality and surround spatiality is top rate.
TrackList: Falken’s Maze, Country Living, Double Nickel, Dreams Go, Measure of a Man, Yahoo, I Wonder, 3 Circles, Claire’s Closet, Lazaro.
– John Henry