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POP AND JAZZ REVIEWS : Yellowjackets Steal Hiroshima's Thunder

October 03, 1994|ZAN STEWART

Friday night at the Greek Theatre was supposed to belong to Hiroshima. The L.A.-based pop-fusion band has been touring in support of its new "Hiroshima/L.A." album and, said leader Dan Kuramoto, was anxious for play for the hometown crowd.

Enter the Yellowjackets.

Like the visiting team that trounces the host at a homecoming football game, the jazz-fusion quartet opened the concert and stole Hiroshima's thunder.

On a strictly musical level, the bands were in completely different leagues. The Yellowjackets are a driving, inventive jazz band that Friday built a high degree of excitement and interest via both ear-pleasing songs and the regularly riveting solos of sax man Bob Mintzer and keyboardist Russell Ferrante.

Such tunes as "Run for Your Life," a mad scamper through a variant on the classic "I Got Rhythm," and the more pop-bent "Clare's Song" were showcases for Mintzer's shouting-then-calm essays and Ferrante's nimble mix of chords and swirling lines. On the bottom were Jimmy Haslip's firm bass lines and the ferocious drumming of William Kennedy, who lit one propulsive fire after another and kept them all burning.

On the other hand, Hiroshima blended Asian elements--June Okida Kuramoto's koto was often the band's lead instrumental voice--with lightweight pop melodies on such songs as "One Fine Day" and "Tabo." These melodies didn't stand up to the numerous repetitions they were given, and there was no dynamic soloist to offer relief.

Still, Hiroshima is a solid show group, playing with precision and employing dramatic effects--one number had 20 kimono-clad dancers on stage--that kept their loyal fans asking for more.

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