Raising Our Voice

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With 2018's Raising Our Voice, long-running crossover jazz outfit Yellowjackets offer a sophisticated, broadly stylistic collection of songs showcasing Grammy-winning Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza as a guest artist on seven of the 13 tracks. The second album the band has recorded since the departure of founding bassist Jimmy Haslip, Raising Our Voice introduces newest member Dane Alderson on bass, taking over from Felix Pastorius' seat, who left the fold after 2016's Cohearance. As with that album, Raising Our Voice finds Yellowjackets exploring a harmonically nuanced bed of post-bop and fusion-influenced sounds that remain audience-accessible even as they reveal the members' talents for investigative soloing and improvisational interplay. In this department, saxophonist Bob Mintzer excels, able to evince a deft balance between the probing modalism of John Coltrane and the lyrical soulfulness of Grover Washington, Jr. He pairs exceedingly well with singer Souza, whose English, Portuguese, and wordless vocals add yet another layer of organic warmth to the band's sound. This is especially evident on the three legacy compositions the band reworked here to feature Souza, including "Man Facing North" and "Solitude," both off 1992's Like a River, as well as "Timeline" from 2011's Yellowjackets. Also engaging is "Everyone Else Is Taken," in which pianist Russell Ferrante's sprightly circular piano figure is doubled by Souza and Mintzer with a dancer's precision. Ferrante then evokes the spirit of Dave Brubeck with his delicate, impressionistic "Mutuality." Elsewhere, they draw upon their '70s roots with the fractured fusion of Mintzer's "Ecuador" and dive headlong into the saxophonist's hard-swinging straight-ahead number "Strange Time." Bassist Alderson also gets his own well-deserved spotlight turns, pushing the group toward new age with his long, drawn-out electric bass tones on the dewy rainforest soundscape of "Emerge" and contributing the kinetic math-rock-and-Latin-fusion hybrid "Brotherly." Ultimately, Raising Our Voice has an openhearted international flavor that seems to speak to a kind of creative inclusiveness Yellowjackets want to project into the world.

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