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Flying free of category

June 02, 2005|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

With the Yellowjackets' 25th anniversary coming next year, the group continues to exemplify how to reach beyond the mainstream jazz audience.

Formed in the late '70s as a backup ensemble for guitarist Robben Ford, the quartet -- which now consists of original members Jimmy Haslip (bass) and Russell Ferrante (keyboards) with later additions Bob Mintzer (saxophones and clarinets) and Marcus Baylor (drums) -- has moved easily across the boundaries of contemporary jazz genres.

On Tuesday night at Catalina Bar & Grill, the quartet gave an entertaining display of music that managed to be both easily accessible to the audience and musically challenging.

The music reached from older Yellowjackets tunes such as "Greenhouse" and "New Jig" to "Cross Current" and "March Majestic" from the band's latest album, "Altered State." The material was consistently engaging, filled with melodic hooks and rhythmic grooves (the latter driven dynamically by Baylor's energetic drumming).

Ferrante's soloing, especially on piano, had a buoyant, enthusiastic, upbeat quality, and Haslip's six-string electric bass excursions were delivered with mobile fluidity. But it was Mintzer's work on the EWI (electronic wind instrument) that provided the most compelling improvisation. Choosing sampled and synthesized tones from high flutes to tub-thumping low notes, he happily blended his driving, straight-ahead style with the freedom to soar across octaves.

The Yellowjackets wound up the set with the obligatory drum solo, Baylor delivering a well-crafted improvisation, coming together with the other players in the communal music-making fashion that defines this consistently appealing ensemble.


The Yellowjackets

Where: Catalina Bar & Grill, 1640 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood

When: Tonight-Saturday, 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.; Sunday, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.

Price: $18-$30 with two drink or dinner minimum

Info: (323) 466-2210

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