Yellowjackets, fronted by alto saxophonist Marc Russo and keyboardist Russell Ferrante (the band's main composer), coined a sound halfway between
Weather Report's melodic atmospheres (Ferrante's Zawinul-inspired synthesizer)
and the instrumental equivalent of the pop-soul ballad.
The first mini-album, Yellowjackets (1981), was a timid excursion into
funk-jazz (Imperial Strut, Sittin' in It) and
Caribbean jazz (The Hornet).
Pieces such as
Daddy's Gonna Miss You, Homecoming and Samurai Samba, from Samurai Samba (november 1983),
Claire's Song and Top Secret, from Mirage a Trois (november 1982),
Sightseeing, from Four Corners (september 1986),
Local Hero and Evening Dance, from Politics (february 1988),
Geraldine and Storytellers from Spin (february 1989),
represented the "jazzy" version of Spyro Gyra's fusion pop.
When saxophonist Bob Mintzer replaced Russo, the band rediscovered its
funk-jazz roots, stretching out in
the nine-minute Green House, on Green House (september 1990),
My Old School, on Like A River (april 1992),
and Wisdom, on Run For Your Life (january 1994).
Dreamland (february 1995), instead, marked a return to the melodic focus
(Summer Song, with Bobby McFerrin on vocals, and The Chosen).
But the group had grown, both in terms of musicianship and composition, and Blue Hats (november 1996) turned ballads such as Savanna and Angelina into intricate mini-sonatas.
Club Nocturne (1998) is ruined by vocals.
The live double-CD Mint Jam (july 2001) was the crowning achievement of this craft
thanks to longer elaborations such as Statue of Liberty and Motet.
Time Squared (2003),
Altered State (2005),
Lifecycle (2008) and
that marked the return of drummer Will Kennedy after 15 years.
A Rise In The Road (Mack Avenue, 2013) featured new member Felix Pastorius replacing Jimmy Haslip.
The highlight of
Cohearence (2015) is the eight-minute closer Cohearence.
Raising Our Voice (february 2018) was recorded by the line-up of
Russell Ferrante (piano, synths), Will Kennedy (drums, synths), Dane Alderson (electric bass), who replaced Felix Pastorius, and Bob Mintzer (saxophones, bass clarinet, flute)
and guest Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza.
The orchestral Jackets XL (november 2019) was recorded with the WDR Big Band of Cologne conducted by Mintzer.
Yellowjackets' lineup on Parallel Motion (may 2022):
was: Russell Ferrante, Will Kennedy, Bob Mintzer and Dane Alderson.