Yellowjackets

The Spin

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Smooth jazz with some rough edges, you can actually sink your teeth into The Spin. Yellowjackets haven't completely taken pop/jazz out of their diet -- Marc Russo's "Blues for Nikki" and Russell Ferrante's "Whistle While You Walk" will skip a little too lightly for some tastes -- but most of the songs find a satisfying midway point between the sweet and the sour. "Geraldine," "Dark Horses," and "Storytellers" all have some meat on them, with keyboardist Russell Ferrante leading a musical discussion that steers clear of the banal. Leaving Russo to carry the melodies, Ferrante is free to pursue a more discursive dialogue (notably on "Enigma"), with punctuation provided by the brisk percussion of William Kennedy (who shines on "Dark Horses"). Jimmy Haslip's bassline gives "The Spin" its shape, but he continues to fade in and out of the mix, and fails to make the most of his one solo. The compact disc features a great bonus track: a medley of Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing" and Bud Powell's "Hallucinations." What their version may lack in soul they make up for in stride. The Spin has more on its mind than an album like Shades, and Yellowjackets' willingness to create and resolve musical problems will give some listeners pause to think. At least on this occasion, Yellowjackets show that light jazz doesn't have to be a guilty pleasure.

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