Sweet Like Honey: The Yellowjackets and Mike Stern

In a world where the phrase "smooth jazz" conjures images of elevators and waiting rooms, the music emitted from the speakers of Teatro Oriente on October 11 did everything but bore the almost sold-out audience of The Yellowjackets featuring Mike Stern.

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This jazz band brought the Santiaguinos to their feet, as the crowd called for more of the high-energy fusion tunes the quintet so masterfully intertwines. When the Yellowjackets meld their smooth sounds with the rockier beats of guitar-player Mike Stern, it starts to make sense how this group of friends earned a collective 21 Grammy nominations amongst them.

With his shaggy gray hair and contagious smile, guitarist Mike Stern captivated the audience’s attention when he took center stage for an extended solo.

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The complicated harmonics and enchanting delay-effects of the seasoned musician—who has collaborated with the likes of Miles Davis and Jaco Pastorius—were only enhanced when Yellowjackets keyboardist Russell Ferrente, bassist Jimmy Hasslip, saxophonist Bob Mintzer and Drummer Marcus Baylor slowly took up their instruments and began jamming again with Stern.

With so much individual talent present in this group, these jams could get competitive, but instead every member seems to get equal enjoyment out of hearing his buddy play as he does out of cranking out his own melodies.

The energy was especially high during the track, “I Wonder”, the most popular off of their new album. The wandering saxophone and walking bass gave the impression of a solitary man walking down the street pondering his future.

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The red velvet chairs of the theater were filled with a mostly older, affluent crowd with some hipster twenty-somethings mixed in, creating an atmosphere that proved good music transcends ages and trends.

Hasslip, who has been a member of the Yellowjackets since the quartet was founded in 1981, took a moment between songs to promote their latest CD, Lifecycle. Released in May 2008, Lifecycle is the band’s first album in 15 years to feature a guitar player. It has received high critical acclaim and is nominated for two Grammys, including “Best Contemporary Jazz Album.”

The Santiago show was the penultimate stop in the South American leg of their international tour. The group’s last stop will be in Concepcion and then they will be bound for Europe, where they will finish touring in mid-November.

So if Jazz fusion, or just great music in general, is your thing, pick up The Yellowjackets featuring Mike Stern’s latest album, Lifecycle.


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