"A favorite pastime of jazz musicians is to alternately obscure the time, and then clearly articulate it. It’s elastic. Sometimes it’s objective, other times extremely subjective. It’s the canvas atop which we place our notes and songs. It is the backdrop to all we do. It’s the moment in which something takes place. It’s the past, present and future."
Following on the heels of their Grammy-nominated Mint Jam, their self-released 2001 live recording (subsequently released overseas on Heads Up International), Yellowjackets continue to blaze a trail into the 21st century with an energy and a signature sound that few will fail to recognize and most have come to love. After more than two decades of recording and performing, over a dozen Grammy nominations, and two Grammy Awards, Yellowjackets keyboardist Russell Ferrante, bassist Jimmy Haslip, tenor saxophonist Bob Mintzer and drummer Marcus Baylor continue to evolve with the worldwide release of Time Squared (HUCD 3075), their first studio recording in five years.
Although born in the studio, Time Squared captures much of the energy and spontaneity that made the Jackets’ previous live recording a formidable Grammy contender. "We picked tunes beforehand that we felt were cohesive as a whole program, but we left quite a bit of room open to chance," says Mintzer. "It’s very much an improvisatory process. You make decisions as it’s going down. You plot the course of the music in the moment. So you’re kind of building this thing spontaneously, and you never know what the end result is going to be."
But when the smoke cleared, the group looked at their handiwork and saw that it was good. "Many of the tracks were first takes," says Ferrante. "We felt we captured the spark of something that was real and felt very natural. Rather than pounding it to death to get a more perfected version, we kept the spirit of the song intact and let the essence come through."
That spirit and essence are very much alive from the very first tracks – the percussive "Go Go," Mintzer’s funky ode to the infectious groove that has evolved in the DC music scene, and the offbeat "Monk’s Habit," Ferrante’s tribute to Thelonious Monk’s eccentric piano style. Drummer Marcus Baylor makes his songwriting debut with the elastic but easygoing "Healing Waters," a track that features atmospheric vocals by his wife, Jean Baylor.
Time Squared addresses personal as well as global challenges. "Gabriela Rose," written by Ferrante and Jimmy Haslip, is dedicated to Haslip’s daughter, who survived a near fatal illness in 2002. "Claire at 18" is Ferrante’s reflection on his daughter’s bittersweet transition from childhood to adulthood. And "The Village Gait" commemorates "the exact moment [September 11, 2001] when time was stretched almost beyond our comprehension in New York City."
Time Squared is a new exploration of some of the most creative and unpredictable moments along the jazz continuum, but the results are conveyed in a language that’s universal.