ARTURO MORA: What about the new release, Twenty
BOB MINTZER: 25 is a retrospective of the
band’s 25 year career. We’ve recorded a cross section
of songs spanning the 25 years, yet the performances reflect the
current line-up and sound of the band today.
RUSSELL FERRANTE: Twenty Five is a celebration
of keeping our band vital and working for over a quarter
century! Along with that, we hope that it conveys our deep sense
of gratitude to all the people who have
made that possible. That includes our families, our business associates
and of course the music fans who have so faithfully supported us
these many years.
ARTURO MORA: Which are your feelings about keeping
a band together for 25 years?
BOB MINTZER: Many things can happen when you have
a long history in a musical organization. A band sound and concept
can develop over 25 years with a real sense of purpose and commitment.
RUSSELL FERRANTE: See answer to #1
ARTURO MORA: Keeping freshness in such a long musical
journey may not be easy. Which are your musical goals when you face
a new Yellowjackets recording?
BOB MINTZER: We all are constantly working on new
musical pathways individually, which make for potential new material
in terms of the Yellowjackets. Everyone is encouraged to bring ideas
to the table. The freshness lies in the fact that none of us care
to play the same things the same way for very long. I think this
is inherent in the Yellowjackets music.
RUSSELL FERRANTE: We want to find something new!
We want to challenge ourselves. We want to write music that will
utilize our individual strengths to their maximum. We want to write
music that will be inspirational to our peers and maybe even open
up possibilities that have not yet been fully explored? I think
too that we want to create music that is optimistic and hopeful.
ARTURO MORA: Who writes the arrangements in the band?
Is it the composer of the song or do you work in a more collaborative
BOB MINTZER: Some collaborative writing is done, Other
times one member brings in an idea and the whole band then has input.
Ultimately the new material becomes a full band project.
RUSSELL FERRANTE: The composer usually takes the lead
but no matter who writes a song, we want each musician to have creative
input and make it their own.
ARTURO MORA: Which are for you the main differences
between the initial version of Yellowjackets and the current one?
BOB MINTZER: This version of the Yellowjackets leans
more towards the jazz side of music based on the current members.
The earlier band was coming out of Rand B a bit more. One is not
better than the other.
RUSSELL FERRANTE: In the initial version of YJs, the
group was more part and arrangement oriented. The current lineup
is more reactive and conversational. We don’t put the emphasis
on recreating the recorded version of a song. We strive to make
each performance spontaneous and unique.
ARTURO MORA: Yellowjackets started as guitarist Robben
Ford’s band. Have you thought in adding a fifth permanent
member – let’s say, a guitar player – lately?
BOB MINTZER: There is a certain intimacy in a quartet
that we all like. However we enjoy doing special projects with guest
RUSSELL FERRANTE: No thoughts of adding guitar but
I’ve thought a lot about expanding the role of vocalist Jean
Baylor (Marcus wife).
ARTURO MORA: The end of your contract with Warner
Brothers a few years ago should have implied bad times for the band.
Have you ever thought in giving up?
BOB MINTZER: No. We enjoy doing this too much. Plus
the existence of the Yellowjackets is not totally contingent on
the support of a record company.
RUSSELL FERRANTE: That period as well as the earlier
period when Robben Ford left the band were very challenging. I think
though that we all recognized that we had something very special.
We knew it was worth putting in the effort it took to get over those
bumps. Also when no record company was interested, we financed and
put out our own recording, Mint Jam. That completely revitalized
and empowered the band.
Yellowjackets live. Courtesy
ARTURO MORA: Jazz fusion has always been considered
studio music instead of live music, but the Yellowjackets always
offer powerful live shows. Do you enjoy playing live more than making
BOB MINTZER: Yes. This is a live band. I think our
best performances (and recordings) come from live playing situations.
RUSSELL FERRANTE: I don’t agree with the premise
of the question. The best so called fusion bands, groups like Miles
Davis, Weather Report, Return to Forever, etc were filled with great
players. I will say however that depending on the kind of music
one writes and intends to record, making studio records might require
a very different approach than playing live. The recording studio
is like a laboratory where you have a lot of control and options.
Playing live is like working without a net. There are always elements
that are out of your control and that can make it much more difficult
to achieve the desired result.
ARTURO MORA: What’s your point on the current
state of jazz fusion? Which bands interest you as listeners?
BOB MINTZER: Bela Fleck, Joe Zawinul
RUSSELL FERRANTE: Honestly, I don’t listen much
to “Jazz fusion” music. I do like great musicians though.
Some of my favorite jazz musicians are Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Brad Mehldau,
Keith Jarrett, Wayne Shorter, and his entire band, Chris Potter,
Vince Mendoza, Claus Ogerman, John Scofield, Michael Brecker, Bobby
McFerrin and many many more!
ARTURO MORA: What should the listener expect from
Yellowjackets in the future?
BOB MINTZER: More good music that is challenging,
thought provoking, well crafted, and honest.
RUSSELL FERRANTE: We never know what’s next but hopefully
it will be something that stirs the soul and excites the imagination!
Russell Ferrante. Courtesy Yellowjackets
Russell Ferrante - piano, keyboards
ARTURO MORA: In relation to Yellowjackets, what does
excite you the most, composing or playing?
RUSSELL FERRANTE: They are equally satisfying in different
ways. Composing is mostly a solitary activity requiring both flashes
of inspiration and lots of time to methodically work out and develop
ones ideas. (1% inspiration, 99% perspiration!) Playing is about
being in the moment with no chance to redo or rethink what you’ve
just done. For me it’s much more hit and miss but really exhilarating
when you’re in the zone!
ARTURO MORA: When you compose for the band, do you
restrict your writing to a quartet line-up, or do you just write
what’s on your mind and “let’s see how do we face
it in the studio”?
RUSSELL FERRANTE: I let the ideas flow without too
much regard to who and how something will be played. It’s
maybe similar to what some writers experience when they say their
characters reveal themselves over the course of a story.
ARTURO MORA: Which instrument do you prefer for soloing:
piano or synthesizer?
RUSSELL FERRANTE: Without question, piano.
Bob Mintzer.Courtesy Yellowjackets
Bob Mintzer - tenor saxophone, EWI
ARTURO MORA: When you start composing a tune, do you
know what project is it for before hand (Yellowjackets or the Bob
Mintzer Big Band)?
BOB MINTZER: I generally start by thinking of the
specific ensemble I’m writing for. This includes taking into
consideration what the various players do and what sort of tune
is appropriate for the current project.
ARTURO MORA: What feelings do you experiment soloing
with the EWI as opposed to soloing with the tenor saxophone?
BOB MINTZER: The EWI is a very flexible and expressive
instrument. It is a nice contrast to the saxophone, and adds a nice
dimension as far as a melodic and soloing voice.
ARTURO MORA: Which are your main current influences
regarding the use of electronics in a jazz context?
BOB MINTZER: I’ve always liked Weather Report,
Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock a lot in this regard. Having played
with Steps Ahead, Jaco Pastorius, and now the Yellowjackets, I’ve
had the opportunity to experience the electronics in jazz syndrome
first hand. It works very well in the right hands.
Jimmy Haslip. Courtesy Yellowjackets
Jimmy Haslip - electric bass
ARTURO MORA: Yours is a very strange bass technique,
as your bass strings are in the opposite placement as usual. Have
you found any real advantages and disadvantages of playing this
JIMMY HASLIP: There’s really NO advantages with
this unconventional approach.
I also see NO perplexing disadvantages either...
It’s basically a question
of extreme study and practice to overcome any disadvantages and
of course, more of the same to progress on the instrument and to
experiment with the instrument in order to clearly and hopefully
delineate a strong and unique voice...
ARTURO MORA: You also appear in the last tribute by
the Jaco Pastorius Big Band (The Word is Out). How about
JIMMY HASLIP: I felt much more prepared and comfortable
on the second Jaco Pastorious Big Band recording . . . The first
project was intense for me as I had to perform on two classic pieces;
“Havona” and “Continuum”... With not a lot
of time to prepare... That made really nervous as I wanted to play
my very best for the recording... The second project afforded me
more time to prepare and I was to perform on one piece only... “KURU/Speak
Like a Child”... A piece I had actually played before... I
was honoured to contribute again and as Jaco was my teacher in 1975...
A thrill to play his music... It’s always an opportunity to
push myself as a musician and learn more about Jaco’s playing
and writing... He was a genius !
ARTURO MORA: Regarding bass technique, composing,
arranging, soloing or whatever related to the musical process, what
are you studying now?
JIMMY HASLIP: For technique and soloing at the moment
I am transcribing some guitar solos and studying a vast number of
guitar players... Very enlightening on many levels... And I feel
that this study has contributed to a more focused direction in both
my technique and soloing...
As far as arranging and composition, I have been listening
to a lot of Classical music and studying scores:
Alban Berg, Mahler, Ligetti, Messiaen, Stravinsky, Mozart, Brahms,
Penderecki, Prokofiev, Bartok, Lutoslawski, Samuel Barber and Shostakovich
to name a few. This music is filled with eye opening composition
and compositional tools. Not to mention some really glorious and
passionate music to draw inspiration from.
Marcus Baylor (front of the lineup).
Marcus Baylor - drums
ARTURO MORA: Entering a band with such a long career
may suppose a big responsibility. Was it hard to take that weight
off, or did you start enjoying your play from the very first rehearsal?
MARCUS BAYLOR: More than anything, I feel blessed
to be a part of this legacy. From day one the guys have always treated
me like family and I enjoy playing with the band. I was a fan of
the Yellowjackets long before I joined. The drummers before me paved
the way. When you join a band it’s about being a part of the
ARTURO MORA: Please explain your approach to composing
for the Yellowjackets. What instruments do you use and how do you
face the writing process?
MARCUS BAYLOR: My process of writing starts with a
groove sometimes or maybe I might play something on the piano. I
have a home studio in which I record my ideas. After I play my song
for the guys they may feel inspired to add other parts. The main
thing about the way I write is what inspires me which is my faith
in God, being a Christian. I really want to inspire and touch people
lives with the gift that God has given me.
ARTURO MORA: Among the drummers who influence you
the most, are there any young ones? Who?
MARCUS BAYLOR: There are a lot of drummers I love
to listen to. I have to give you the full spectrum on who influences
me: Michael Williams (Commisioned), Dana Davis (Winans), Spanky
(Tye Tribbett), Chris Coleman (Israel & New Breed), Brian Blade,
Eric Harland, Chris Dave, Teddy Campbell, Lewis Nash, Jeff “Tain
Watts, Will Kennedy, Keith Carlock, and Marvin and McQuitty. There
are so many others.