Three years ago, the Yellowjackets found themselves without a record label after a distinguished 20-year career, and the group decided that rather than place control over the destiny of their recording in the hands of a label, they would release their album themselves. That album is Mint Jam (Yellowjackets Enterprises), a two-CD live set featuring new material and reenvisioned older tunes recorded during a two-night engagement at the Los Angeles club the Mint.
Simply put, this is a magical recording. The band is energetic and very inspired, and the group performances and solos brim with inventiveness and high-caliber musicianship. Among the many outstanding solos are Russell Ferrante's dynamic gospel piano on "Les is Mo," saxophonist Bob Mintzer's impassioned performance in "Runferyerlife" and the breathtaking tradeoff between bassist Jimmy Haslip and the band's new drummer, Marcus Baylor, at the end of "Evening News." Mint Jam is not available at record stores; you can get it only via the band's Web-site, yellowjackets.com.