The Benoit/Freeman topped the chart 25 years ago

The top ten contemporary jazz recordings from the week of Feb. 13, 1994!

The Benoit/Freeman Project
  1. David Benoit and Russ Freeman, The Benoit/Freeman Project
  2. Nelson Rangell, Yes Then Yes
  3. Tom Scott, Reed My Lips
  4. Richard Smith, From My Window
  5. Torcuato Mariano, Paradise Station
  6. Marcus Miller, The Sun Don’t Lie
  7. Yellowjackets, Run for Your Life
  8. Fourplay, Between the Sheets
  9. Gary Burton/Rebecca Parris, It’s Another Day
  10. Charles Michael Brotman, Pacific Rendezvous

Contemporary jazz 25 years ago – May 11, 1991

Looking back at the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Albums chart from May 11, 1991, you see some of the first recordings from the post-MCA acquisition of GRP Records. Greenhouse by Yellowjackets, Love and Understanding by George Howard, and Healing the Wounds by the Crusaders were all in the top ten.

album cover to the 1991 recording Greenhouse by the Yellowjackets

Greenhouse was the first recording featuring new saxophonist Bob Mintzer. The music continued the trajectory away from pop-jazz that had most evident in their previous recording The Spin. Mintzer is still with the quartet as is founding member Russell Ferrante and, several years away from the band, William Kennedy.

Healing the Wounds was a complete surprise when it came in to the radio station where I was volunteering. No advance notice or hype. You could pull that off in 1991. Produced by Marcus Miller, Healing the Wounds featured band founders Joe Sample and Wilton Felder in great form. I still love the opening track “Pessimisticism.” Continue reading “Contemporary jazz 25 years ago – May 11, 1991”

Summer DVDs

There’s a handful of DVD and Blu-ray releases coming out this summer that jazz fans might be interested in. A Blu-ray version of Jamiroquai’s excellent 2003 Live at Montreux is on its way. New Morning concerts by Yellowjackets and Mike Stern are coming out on both DVD and Blu-ray. Go through the carousel below to see what else you can expect!

2009 Contemporary Jazz Preview

One constant in the contemporary jazz world is the planning and reliable execution of Heads Up recordings. I just got the list for 2009 and it’s another winner for contemporary jazz fans. I’ll elaborate more in later posts but here’s what’s on the schedule:

January
Incognito – More Tales Remixed – remixes of songs from the latest Incognito release;
Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Live;
Walter Beasley – Free Your Mind

February
Joe Zawinul – 75 – two-disc live set;
Pieces of a Dream – Soul Intent;
Mike Stern – New Morning The Paris Concert;
The Bad Plus Joined by Wendy Lewis – For All I Care

March
Marion Meadows – TBD;
Chuck Loeb – Between 2 Worlds;
Yellowjackets – New Morning The Paris Concert

April
Candy Dulfer; Hiroshima

May
Spyro Gyra; Zap Mama; Stanley Clarke/Hiromi/Lenny White

June
Alexander Zonjic, Andy Narell

August
Najee; Mike Stern; Joe Zawinul DVD

September
Take 6 – a new holiday recording

Review: Yellowjackets featuring Mike Stern – Lifecycle

The Yellowjackets – where do I start? How about at the beginning, when they were the back-up band for Robben Ford? Much has been written and chronicled about this early chapter of their history, especially in light of their 2006 anniversary release, Twenty-Five. I bring all this up because of the inevitable comparison that will be made between the current Yellowjackets line-up on Lifecycle and the original group with guitarist Ford – all because of the prescience of the telecaster-wielding Mike Stern. Let me start by saying that I think this current band of Haslip, Ferrante, Mintzer and Baylor along with guest Stern are by far the strongest iteration of this storied group. Ford, Russo, Lawson, Kennedy, and Erskine all contributed mightily when they were in the band but, somewhere in the late eighties, Ferrante and Haslip started to take the band, both sonically and compositionally, in a different direction. This culminated with Mintzer joining the Jackets for both Greenhouse and his own One Music in 1991 and 1992 respectively. Which leads us to Lifecycle, and the inclusion of Stern, who first joined the Yellowjackets on stage in Montreal last year. Whereas Ford has always had that blues sound, Stern’s playing is decidedly more horn-like in both his phrasing and attack which makes him the perfect foil for Mintzer. In fact, I feel that Stern could have felt right at home on any of the last four or five Jackets’ releases – his sound and compositional style are so incredibly suited to this band. I remember a night in 1990 when I was listening to the local late night jazz radio broadcast and I heard what I thought was the Yellowjackets. It turned out to be a tune from the Mike Stern-Bob Berg band, something from one or the other’s recordings, which at the time were virtually the same personnel. My point: this collaboration has been a long time coming and this version of the Yellowjackets has never sounded better or stronger. As a fan, the courage that the Yellowjackets display on Lifecycle to keep evolving the band is certainly a comfort for future endeavors.

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