When drummer Tony Williams died of a heart attack on February 23, 1997, at the relatively young age of 51, it was a tremendous loss for straight-ahead post-bop and hard bop as well as for fusion. Williams had numerous acoustic jazz credentials (including his contributions to Miles Davis' legendary mid-‘60s quintet), and his band Lifetime was one of the most important fusion outfits of the ‘70s. The late drummer's fusion side is what electric guitarist Allan Holdsworth, electric bassist Jimmy Haslip (of Yellowjackets fame), keyboardist Alan Pasqua, and drummer Chad Wackerman pay tribute to on Blues for Tony, an excellent two-CD set that was recorded live in 2007…
On Nightfall, Haslip’s first solo album since 2000’s Red Heat, he’s joined by keyboardist and producer Joe Vannelli for a set of heavily textured tracks characterized by multilayered keys and synths and programmed drums and percussion. Haslip’s awe-inspiring bass chops are amply on display.
Guitarist Jeff Richman, bassist Jimmy Haslip (taking a break from the Yellowjackets to play some fusion!) and drummer, Danny Gottlieb recorded live at the Baked Potato, in Hollywood CA, on Oct. 6 & 7 2000. Entirely instrumental, tasty, well played fusion from these three jazz/fusion veterans.
Renegade Creation is the new record by veteran musical giants, Michael Landau, Robben Ford,Jimmy Haslip and Gary Novak. Blending together to create a blues-driven sound that not only willsatisfy their individual fans but is fresh enough to attract a legion of new fans as well. Delivering bothrootsy, blues/rock vocal tunes and fiery instrumentals, the band draws on the unique guitar interplay between guitar giants Robben Ford and Michael Landau who inspire each other to new personal bests.
Harvey Mason's 2014 effort, Chameleon, is an expansive and funky album that finds the journeyman jazz drummer exploring the space between the '70s post-bop/fusion albums that marked his early career and the contemporary smooth jazz work that has defined the latter half of his career. Having started out playing with the masterful pianist Erroll Garner, Mason eventually join Herbie Hancock's legendary Headhunters ensemble, with whom he recorded the original version of this album's title track. And while he went on to a successful career working with a bevy of artists including Lee Ritenour, George Benson, and others, it is primarily his work with Hancock that is Mason's focus here.
Other than the easy-listening pieces that appear near the beginning of the program, this is one of The Yellowjackets' strongest jazz dates. Bob Mintzer's creative reeds (switching between tenor, bass clarinet, soprano and the EWI) keep the music stimulating and keyboardist Russell Ferrante has come a long way as both an improviser (where he is most influenced by Herbie Hancock) and as the band's main composer. With bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer William Kennedy in strong supporting roles, the ensemble plays intelligent funk grooves, some mood music and occasional sections of straight-ahead jamming. The inclusion of the Miles Davis-influenced trumpeter Tim Hagans on half of the selections adds variety to a particularly enjoyable set.
Smooth jazz with some rough edges, you can actually sink your teeth into The Spin. Yellowjackets haven't completely taken pop/jazz out of their diet – Marc Russo's "Blues for Nikki" and Russell Ferrante's "Whistle While You Walk" will skip a little too lightly for some tastes – but most of the songs find a satisfying midway point between the sweet and the sour. "Geraldine," "Dark Horses," and "Storytellers" all have some meat on them, with keyboardist Russell Ferrante leading a musical discussion that steers clear of the banal. Leaving Russo to carry the melodies, Ferrante is free to pursue a more discursive dialogue (notably on "Enigma"), with punctuation provided by the brisk percussion of William Kennedy (who shines on "Dark Horses"). Jimmy Haslip's bassline gives "The Spin" its shape, but he continues to fade in and out of the mix, and fails to make the most of his one solo.