In 1969 I moved to the San Francisco bay area and worked in club bands. Around 1975 I met Russell Ferrante and Robben Ford in San Jose and later I moved back to Los Angeles. Russell had moved to L.A. as well and it was there I meant Jimmy Haslip and Ricky Lawson. From then until now, Russ, Jimmy and I have written, recorded and produced many compositions together. I have had the pleasure of working with Will Kennedy, Mark Russo and Bob Mintzer in many recording as well. I was so fortunate to meet these players who became family to me. Their guidance and love through the years has lifted my performance and helped me ask more of myself in writing and singing. The Yellowjackets remain an inspiration to me today. The Jazz music they make reaches beyond any standard and the work we have shared through the years, is some of my proudest moments.
Although sometimes grouped with Spyro Gyra,Yellowjackets are actually one of the most creative regular groups in the “rhythm & jazz” genre. 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 membersRussell 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/GRP 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 ofTimeline 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.”