Kevin Eubanks and Yellowjackets Sign with Mack Avenue Records

Eubanks to release new album Zen Food on November 23 and Yellowjackets to release label debut in 2011

Kevin Eubanks
Yellowjackets signing: (L-R): Tom Robinson, CEO; Gretchen Valade, Chair; Denny Stilwell, President; Jeff Neben, Axis Management/Yellowjackets Manager; Russell Ferrante; Bob Mintzer; Will Kennedy; Jimmy Haslip; Al Pryor, EVP of A&R

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Mack Avenue Records has announced the signing of two major jazz acts: guitarist Kevin Eubanks, who will release his first album for the label, Zen Food, on November 23, and the Yellowjackets, who will release their debut for the label in 2011.

Earlier this year Eubanks ended his 18-year association with The Tonight Show where he had served at music director of the band for much of that span. In a press release received at JazzTimes, Eubanks said: “It’s so refreshing to find a record label that feels ‘right’ from so many aspects. Mack Avenue Records is the company I’ve been hoping to find to release the music I’ve been wanting to play.” Returning the compliment as is customary in these press releases, label president Denny Stilwell said that, “When Kevin first announced that he was departing the Tonight Show with a desire to record and tour again, I knew he would be an ideal artist for us. He is a musician of uncompromising artistry who has chosen an opportune moment to re-establish his roots in jazz and Mack Avenue is honored to be working with him.”

Although he had not been as active as a recording artist during The Tonight Show years, Eubanks has a serious track record both as a leader of his own groups, andl as a sideman to artists like Dave Holland, Art Blakey and Roy Haynes. Signed to GRP Records in 1984, when he was just 27 years old, Eubanks went on to record over a dozen albums as a leader and appeared as a sideman on about 100 more. Recently he has been involved with the Monk Institute as artistic director of that organization’s Jazz in the Classrooms program. The Philadelphia-born-and-bred guitarist comes from one of that city’s most musical families. His father Charles was a noted pianist and his uncle was Ray Bryant. His brothers Robin and Duane are also very accomplished jazz musicians. Despite being gainfully employed on the West Coast for nearly two decades, Eubanks has kept his close ties to his hometown.

A guitarist of considerable chops with years of big-time experience playing in front of mass audiences, Eubanks will no doubt be welcomed back to the jazz community that has always been such a big part of his life.

Mack Avenue also recently signed the contemporary jazz band, Yellowjackets, who will celebrate their 30th anniversary with their debut album for the label in 2011. That album is expected to include guitarist Robben Ford, who in 1977 recruited keyboardist Russell Ferrante, bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Ricky Lawson to record an album called Inside Story. In short time, the studio band turned into something more, beginning a run that has spanned over three decades. During that time, the Yellowjackets released 20 albums on four record labels (Warner Brothers, MCA, GRP and Heads Up), with 17 Grammy nominations and two wins.

The group’s personnel now includes original members Ferrante and Haslip, as well as Will Kennedy (back for his second ride with group) and saxophonist Bob Mintzer (who joined the group in 1991). The band appears regularly at festivals and venues all over the world and when they’re not performing together, the members keep busy with a variety of projects and endeavors. Mintzer leads his own small group and big bands and teaches at USC; Haslip produces numerous artists; Kennedy and Ferrante are first-call studio musicians. They manage to bring their individual experiences to a band built on a cooperative and collaborative dynamic.

Under the able stewardship of record industry vets like Stilwell, Al Pryor, Randall Kennedy and others, the Mack Avenue label has amassed a roster that now is arguably one of the most impressive in the entire jazz industry, with artists such as Christian McBride, Danilo Perez, Tia Fuller, Gerald Wilson, Stanley Jordan, Kirk Whalum and many others. For more information about the label, its artists and releases, you can visit their web site.