Regardless of genre, style or sound I would be hard pressed to do without the Yellowjackets infectious groove. In fact, from what I’ve witness the Jackets probably ranks well within the top of most contemporary jazz enthusiasts lists of favs that I personally know. “Blue Hats,” their 1997 album just happens to be in close proximity to my desk. Of course, this allows me to indulge in a sample their timeless and vivacious antics anytime I get ready. —Rob Young | The Urban Flux
Yellowjackets -][- Blue Hats – [WEA, 1997]
In typical yellowjackets fashion, Blue Hats takes the listener on a surprise journey of what seems like mainstream pop/jazz, but what is really much more well-crafted than the usual fare. The album mixes relatively easy-listening tunes with a few hard-driving ones where both Ferrante and Mintzer are able to branch out. Russell Ferrante’s piano improvisations are at once sparse and lucid-his use of space allows his melodic genius to be appreciated by the attentive listener. Bob Mintzer is a marvelously talented reed man. His playing ranges from the mellowest of tones in a ballad-like setting to the power and intensity of his tenor and bass clarinet improvisations, showcasing his dynamic range and harmonic cleverness. Kennedy and Haslip are two talented players that create the undercurrent without which the group could not shine.
Just when you think Yellowjackets have gone to a cheezy commercial sound, they completely surprise you with a power piece in the tradition of Coltrane or McCoy Tyner. For diversity of musical ideas, Yellowjackets continue to delight not just with the first listening, but with repeated ones when one hears more and different aspects of their total sound. Blue Hats is a very tight and not over-produced album, and though their style must fit under the jazz umbrella, it is really much broader and more diverse in its musicality, making Yellowjackets a more creative and eclectic group than most can appreciate. —Peter Oberg /Amazon.com