Heads Up International
CD: HUCD 3097
SACD: HUSA 9097 (2.0 and 5.1ch)
Russell Ferrante, keyboards
Jimmy Haslip, bass
Bob Mintzer, woodwinds
Marcus Baylor, drums
Jean Baylor, with Perri (Lori, Sharon, Darlene, and Carolyn Perry) — vocals on “The Hope”
Michael Shapiro — percussion on “Hunter’s Point” and “Suite Fifteen”
- Suite 15
- March Majestic
- The Hope
- Hunter’s Point
- Mother Earth
- Youth Eternal
- Free Day
- Cross Current
- 57 Chevy
At its core, Yellowjackets is a family. We all feel extremely fortunate to have this unique opportunity to create music and share it with all of you. The beauty and joy of this musical family is that we’re given the opportunity to enrich and expand our ties with one another, our extended musical family, and all of you through music. On Altered State, we’ve gotten reacquainted with some old friends and make some new ones.
The making of this CD reunited us with the recording studio we first worked in twenty years ago. In 1985, we recorded Shades and subsequently recorded Four Corners, Politics, and Greenhouse at Schnee Studio. On Altered State we felt right at home working in this familiar space. There’s a huge skylight that bathes the main recording area in warm, natural light giving the entire facility has a light and airy feeling. Our tracking engineer, Bill Schnee, is known for his work with pop and jazz legends such as David Sanborn, Whitney Houston, Diana Krall, and many others. The recordings that are made there are known for their richness and warmth of sound. It was the perfect environment for making Altered State.
Altered State also brought us the opportunity to work with other longtime friends. In 1984, Yellowjackets opened in Saratoga Springs, NY for The Pat Metheny Group. It was there that we first heard and became great fans of four sisters who at that time were singing with Pat’s band. Over the ensuing years, we’ve had many opportunities to work with Lori, Sharon, Darlene, and Carolyn Perry. Their spirit and immense talents have enriched countless recordings. On this recording we enlisted them to sing along with Jean Baylor on “The Hope”. Jean had written a beautiful lyric to a gospel flavored song Jimmy and I co-wrote. After hearing Jean’s stirring vocal, Jimmy turned to all of us and excitedly said, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to get the Perry sisters on this track!” Their powerful and soulful voices were the perfect compliment to Jean’s passionate vocal performance.
We enlisted another longtime musical friend, Michael Shapiro, to play percussion on Altered State. Michael is one of those versatile musicians who plays both percussion and drum set equally well. He understood how to perfectly compliment Marcus on two unusual pieces, “Hunter’s Point” and “Suite Fifteen”. Both songs present thorny metric challenges. “Hunter’s Point” is in 5/8 meter and Suite Fifteen is constructed in three fifteen beat sections. Both were quite challenging pieces for us to play but Mike’s percussion fit seamlessly into the fabric of both arrangements.
As previously mentioned, Jean Baylor again makes an inspiring and poignant contribution to Altered State. Jean had previously sung on our 2003 release, Time Squared and our Christmas recording, Peace Round. “The Hope” is her first co-writing credit on a Jackets’ recording. Recently weve also been fortunate to have her performing on stage with us whenever she’s out on the road with her husband, Marcus. She’s rapidly becoming an honorary Yellowjacket and unquestionably the best looking!
The other songs on the recording feature the core YJ band. Over the course of the last five years, our music has continued to broaden and evolve. I think the most distinctive quality of the band is its collaborative spirit. There is no leader. We trust each another. With that trust comes the understanding that we each have the freedom and responsibility to shape the music. Altered State finds Marcus making a larger compositional contribution. His two pieces offer a study in contrasts. “Unity”, co-written with Bob, demonstrates his ability to make a gentle and lyrical statement. In contrast, “Free Day” finds Marcus using a darker palette and painting more abstractly. The band’s performance on this song ventures into some unexpected territory as well.
Bob Mintzer once again contributes several strong compositions to Altered State. His first, “March Majestic” is a tasty gumbo of a swingin’ New Orleans’ second line groove and a snaking melody riding atop an imaginative harmonic structure. Though our music can occasionally venture down an unexpected side street, we’re never too far from the main thoroughfare! “Mother Earth” is a graceful and lilting composition in an unusual cut time meter that has a 6/8 feeling. Its propulsive quality comes from a rich, almost cloudlike harmonic structure that drifts slowly across the underpinning of Jimmy’s bass line and Marcus ‘ latin flavored groove. “Cross Current” features Bob on EWI and bass clarinet. The song gets its name from the two interwoven melodies in the B section and their interplay against the rhythm. Bob’s final composition, “Aha” begins with an unaccompanied bass solo improvisation. Jimmy created this on the spot with no preparation. I know, because I suggested this to him out of the blue thinking it might be a nice setup for the song. Jimmy is an amazingly intuitive and creative individual and jumped right in without a moment’s hesitation.
As previously mentioned, Jimmy co-wrote “The Hope” and also wrote “Youth Eternal”. Jimmy tells us that Youth Eternal was the name of his intramural basketball team in high school! It does have a playful and mischievous quality. Jimmy often comments on his love for the music of his youth, especially bands like Sly and the Family Stone. Check out Jimmy’s tip of the hat to Sly’s bassist, Larry Graham.
Finally, along with co-writing “The Hope”, I composed three additional songs for this project, previously mentioned, “Suite Fifteen”, “Hunter’s Point” and “57 Chevy”. All three were inspired in large part by an exploration of layering uneven groupings of notes like 3’s, 5’s, and 7’s atop one another. 57 Chevy is probably the most overt example as the song calls for piano to simultaneously play all three. The band is always on the lookout for new ways to invigorate itself. One of the best ways to do that is to constantly challenge ourselves. These unusual grooves and metric puzzles certainly did that.
Lastly, we must mention some other longtime collaborators as well as a new one. Rich Breen, our sound mixer, has been involved in every YJ CD since Blue Hats. He mixed Altered State and is an integral part of the band’s sound. Similarly our graphic designer, Margi Denton has worked on every YJ CD package since Run For Your Life. Her boundless creativity has insured that our graphics are always imaginative and first rate. A longtime friend but a recent collaborator is Mitch Haupers. Mitch, a teacher at Berklee College of Music in Boston, came out to Los Angeles to document the recording sessions with still photos and live video footage. Almost all of the photos in the CD booklet were taken by Mitch. He also created a five minute video montage which we hope to have available on the site soon. Finally, a new friend, Peter Max, painted the cover art. Peter needs no introduction and we are incredibly honored to have had the opportunity to collaborate with him. He suggested the CD’s title, Altered State, after listening and painting to the rough tracks of this recording. Thanks, Peter! On behalf of the entire band, we sincerely hope you’ll join us on our most recent musical excursion to an Altered State.