(Heads Up, 2003)
As one of the few bands who can command respect both from jazz purists and smooth jazz enthusiasts alike, the Yellowjackets have maintained a remarkably consistent level of quality throughout their career -- which is now nearing the quarter century mark. Representing their first studio album in five years, Time Squared sounds decidedly more improvisational than compositional.
Multi-instrumentalist Bob Mintzer wrote the opening track, "Go Go," as a tight sax workout with a good funky backbeat. The sax makes way in the middle for some trumpet and piano solo work, then rejoins to bring it home. Founding member and keyboardist Russell Ferrante wrote "Monk's Habit" as a tribute to the great Thelonious Monk. The excellent sound of the Yellowjackets' own production is evident on Ferrante's "Smithtown," which is more piano- and keyboard-oriented with some nice melody lines all contained within a nice jazzy groove.
Drummer Marcus Baylor's wife Jean contributes some wordless vocals to "Healing Waters." Mintzer's title track cooks with a funky back beat, cool electric piano and a bumpin' synth solo. Ferrante's "Gabriela Rose" is slow and slightly moody in comparison to the rest of the material on this disc. The tempo bounces back on "Sea Folk," which also features solos on sax and piano, sounding at times reminiscent of Vince Guaraldi.
"Claire @18" has a nice flute-based wind sound, grounded by the rhythm section. Sax and piano are featured on "Village Gait," which builds to an up-tempo climax. Ferrante's "My 1st Best Friend" closes the record on a slightly wistful tone, but not before establishing a nice slow groove seasoned with some tasty sax noodling. For technology buffs there is a multimedia section, playable on your computer's CD-ROM drive that includes a video, artist profile and more. Time Squared is also available on SACD in a 5.1 surround sound mix.
These guys are consummate pros and you can hear the quality on every track.