Robben Ford gathered a group of experienced session musicians in 1977 to record The Inside Story. They formed the Yellowjackets after forming a trio that included Russell Ferrante, Jimmy Haslip, and Ricky Lawson as keyboardists. Robben Ford wanted to record another album, which was more pop-oriented and vocally oriented. The Inside Story was primarily instrumental. The Robben Ford Group was formed. They preferred to go the instrumental route and created a “band within an album”. The same group, which included Robben Ford as guitarist, recorded digital demos that were accepted by Warner Brothers and Yellowjackets was formed. Although Robben Ford’s contributions to the group would decrease over time, they would still be known as Yellowjackets. Their debut album Yellowjackets was a huge success in jazz radio and received critical and public acclaim. Mirage A Trois also followed its lead. They took a short break to pursue other projects. However, they returned in time for 1984 Playboy Jazz Festival. Marc Russo, their new lead vocal, joined them. The landmark concert was a turning point for the Yellowjackets, which saw them reach the top of the Billboard Jazz charts as well as at concert venues all over the globe. It also led to the release of the third Yellowjackets album Samurai Samba. 1986 saw the group move to MCA Records to record Shades. The title track was written by Donald Fagen, Steely Dan’s famed Steely Dan composer. It is a tribute to all the “shades” that he had heard in the group’s music. Ricky Lawson left the group to join Lionel Richie’s touring band. He was replaced by William Kennedy. The rock-solid lineup led the Yellowjackets to new territories, exploring world beats as well as densely-populated soundscapes. This was a sign of their growing maturity. Four Corners’ follow-up, Politics, is a more mature album. The group begins to explore acoustic sounds and sheds some electronic elements. Marc Russo’s last recording with Yellowjackets was The Spin. Jan Erik Kongshaug, a noted engineer, recorded it in Oslo, Norway. The Jackets proved they can play acoustic jazz like the best. The new era was marked by Greenhouse. The Yellowjackets would record their most adventurous album to date without Marc. It featured Bob Mintzer, an ace big band arranger, saxophonist, and string accompaniments on some tracks. Soon after, Bob Mintzer was a full-fledged member of Yellowjackets. One Music, one of Bob Mintzer’s dmp records, also featured the Jackets. Live Wires shows the band in concert with Mintzer. Like A River and Run For Your Life were the result of a growing interest for straight-ahead acoustic music. The 1995 album, Dreamland, saw Yellowjackets return to Warner Brothers and produce their most relaxed and relaxing recording yet. Blue Hats is spontaneouser than previous albums, musically richer and more revealing of how Yellowjackets’ have changed since their first album. Club Nocturne is their most recent studio recording and has great crossover appeal thanks to the contributions of Jonathan Butler, Kurt Elling, and Brenda Russell. Although the Yellowjackets today may not sound as good as the Yellowjackets fifteen years ago, their unmistakable talents still shine through, regardless of whether they are playing fusion or full-blown jazz acoustic. Their music has changed and matured a lot, but it’s still Yellowjackets that you’re hearing. Text contributed by users is available under Creative Commons By–SA License. It may also be available under GNU FDL.

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