The Yellowjackets (Russell Ferrante, Jimmy Haslip, Bob Mintzer, and Marcus Baylor) are all great players in their own right, though they benefit from the occasional contributions of friends. On this disc, they’re joined by guitar whiz Mike Stern, who not only brings his considerable soloing skills, but adds two compositions.
Stern’s quirky chorused sound highlights “Falken’ Maze,” where his bop sensibilities bring an urgency usually not heard on Yellowjackets efforts. Same goes for “Yahoo,” which starts out as almost a clone of the early Fourplay sound, but gets goosed by Stern’s solo. The Stern-penned “Double Nickel” has an cool, odd feel with Stern and Mintzer stating the head against a pounding drum. Ferrante and Stern both get a chance to show their soloing skills in a way that makes you wish the band did this sort of thing more often. Stern’s other composition, “Dreams Go,” is a lovely ballad with a gospel feel and nice interaction between Ferrante and Stern.
While the Yellowjackets are all wonderful players, it’s easy to forget that Robben Ford brought them together, and his fiery playing is sometimes missed. So it’s good for them to bring in someone like Stern, who can supply that oomph.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jul. ’08 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.