Yellowjackets: Altered States

Yellowjackets image 0
Andrew Lepley

Yellowjackets

Artist Peter Max’s psychedelic work embodied the spirit of the ’60s, but he remains a major figure in the contemporary art scene, and he created the cover of the Yellowjackets’ new Altered State (Heads Up). While not representational, the cover art is filled with color, energy and vibrancy-much like the album’s music, which finds the veteran contemporary jazz band experimenting with rhythms and harmonies to create a collection of adventurous, exploratory jams that emphasize the band members’ strong compositional sense and extraordinary musicianship. On “Suite 15,” Bob Mintzer’s sax melody spirals over keyboardist Russell Ferrante’s stately piano rhythm, while the vocal track “The Hope” is uplifting, both lyrically and musically. The organ-accented “March Majestic” is a New Orleans-flavored tune that lives up to its title. Drums and percussion drive “Free Day,” not a surprise as drummer Marcus Baylor penned the song. On “Aha,” Jimmy Haslip’s melodic bass lines offset Mintzer’s sax, and Haslip turns in a fluid solo on the laidback closer “Unity.” Altered State possesses the kind of spontaneity and skillful playing that exemplifies the best jam sessions and shouldn’t be missed.