Music » Livewire

The Yellowjackets

Thursday, July 20, at Nighttown.

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"If you groove them, they will come" could easily stand as the Yellowjackets' motto. And the listeners have not only come, they've stayed a long, long while. Over the past 25 years, the West Coast fusion outfit has cut 21 albums, shuffled personnel, periodically retooled its sound, jumped record labels, and defied precise genre labels. What's endured is their knack for grooves of varied feel and flavor, from electrified rock-fusion to straight-ahead acoustic jazz, reliably lyrical and heavily dosed with invention.

Originally formed by guitarist Robben Ford as a less-commercial alternative to his label's pop-oriented plans for him, the Yellowjackets have thrived in the marketplace, mastering the elusive craft of making music that's both creative and accessible. Keyboardist Russell Ferrante is largely responsible for their wide sonic range, and fellow founding 'Jacket bassist Jimmy Haslip's stunning solo chops will make one forget the band has no guitarist these days. Along with longtime saxophonist Bob Mintzer and drummer Marcus Baylor, they celebrate the band's collective birthday -- appropriately before a live crowd -- on their latest CD/DVD release, Twenty Five.

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