Gig review: Yellowjackets, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

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THE combination of America’s long-established Yellowjackets with our own relatively new Trio Red promised to be a colourful launch for The J-Word, a new Scottish jazz touring consortium.

Yellowjackets

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

****

The American band have expertly juggled commercial success with musical credibility over the years, and their new line-up maintained that tradition.

Keyboard player and band founder Russell Ferrante and drummer Will Kennedy remained from their last appearance in Scotland some years ago, while guest saxophonist Bob Franchescini replaced Bob Mintzer, and the band’s newest recruit, Felix Pastorius – son of Jaco, no less, and a chip off the old block – completed the line-up on his six-string electric bass.

Like many bands in the jazz-fusion orbit, Yellowjackets come over as more vibrant in live performance than on record, although the band have been moving in that direction even in the studio, aiming for a more “live”, less elaborately produced feel. Their harmonically sophisticated, rhythmically intricate compositions also allowed plenty of space for solo improvisation, driven by Will Kennedy’s complex but propulsive drumming, while Franchescini filled the saxophone chair in impressive fashion.

Tom Bancroft’s Trio Red used their opening slot to make a powerful impression with their own clever, kinetic compositions and dramatic improvisations. Their music already sounded more expansive and developed in this setting than in their club date I heard in Edinburgh in January, with Tom Cawley in particular benefitting from the hall’s fine Steinway.