Preview: Yellowjackets meet 'A Rise in the Road'

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On Sunday, a long-running jazz-fusion band with a bass player by the last name Pastorius is performing at Hartwood Acres in Hampton.

No, it's not Weather Report, and no, his first name isn't Jaco. It's the Yellowjackets, for which Jaco's son, Felix, now holds down the bottom.

The band is touring in support of its latest CD, "A Rise in the Road," released in June. The title, says keyboardist Russell Ferrante, the only founding member left after 32 years, is "just a metaphor for life's challenges."


Where: Hartwood Acres, Hampton.

When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Admission: Free.

One of those challenges was the departure of bassist Jimmy Haslip, who, like Mr. Ferrante, was in on the ground floor of the Yellowjackets. Mr. Haslip, a top electric bassist in Los Angeles, took a leave of absence from the band about a year and a half ago and decided to make it permanent last year.

"I think some of it was he had lots of opportunities, and having a commitment to a band and taking all the things he wanted to take" was too much for him, Mr. Ferrante says. "We've all remained on good terms and wish him well."

The band found Mr. Haslip's replacement when saxophonist Bob Mintzer sat in with Felix Pastorius, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., at a jazz educators conference.

"We auditioned several people, and Felix seemed to be the best fit," Mr. Ferrante says. "But he plays a different style than his father -- he really has his own approach to his instrument. It's great to watch him develop."

The new record "has a little bit of a lighter feeling -- toward more acoustic, less production" than previous recordings, he says.

Featured as a guest on three tunes is trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, a former student at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. He, like Mr. Ferrante and Mr. Mintzer, teaches at the University of Southern California.

The current single "Can't We Elope?" features Mr. Akinmusire and is a takeoff on "Cantaloupe Island" -- to which Mr. Ferrante says, "Thank you, Herbie Hancock. It's totally surprising because we haven't had a song on the smooth jazz charts in decades."

Not that the band even tries to fit any format.

"Our band is in the cracks -- it's not embraced by smooth jazz or traditional jazz," Mr. Ferrante says. However, "we're still making music and having a lot of fun."


Rick Nowlin: or 412-263-3871.


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