Founded in 1981 as an R&B-oriented band that starred guitarist Robben Ford
, the group took a giant step forward when, after Ford
's departure, altoist Marc Russo
took his place. With original members Russell Ferrante on keyboards and electric bassist Jimmy Haslip
, in addition to 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 Bros.
in the early '80s, Yellowjackets moved to MCA
in 1986, where they released a string of well-received albums. In the '90s, Russo
chose to go out on his own, and his replacement, Bob Mintzer
(on tenor and bass clarinet), added more jazz credibility to the group's music. They moved back to Warner Bros.
in 1995 for several albums before moving to the Heads Up
label for the live two-CD set Mint Jam in 2002. Their first studio album in five years, Time Squared, was released in 2003. Three years later, the band celebrated its 25th anniversary as an ensemble with the release of the live album Twenty Five. The studio album Lifecycle followed in 2008. In 2011, the band marked its 30th year with the release of Timeline on Mack Avenue
. In 2013, Yellowjackets released A Rise in the Road, their first album to showcase new bassist Felix Pastorius (son of Jaco
). Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire
also guested on three tracks. Pastorius was replaced by Dane Alderson in 2015. Yellowjackets issued Cohearence in 2016; the album included a notable interpretation of John Coltrane
's classic "Giant Steps." ~ Scott Yanow