The Robben Ford Group: A Fusion of Musical Excellence

Robben Ford, the virtuoso guitarist, joined forces with a group of highly talented musicians, creating the Robben Ford Group (RFG), in the late seventies. Comprising Robben Ford on guitar, Russel Ferrante on keyboards, Jimmy Haslip on bass, and Ricky Lawson on drums, the RFG was a tight-knit ensemble known for their exceptional fusion of jazz, pop, rock, and blues.

The Struggle of “Inside Story”

In 1979, they released “The Inside Story,” which was initially promoted as Robben Ford’s solo debut. Although cherished by Ford’s loyal fan base, “Inside Story” struggled to gain mainstream traction. Despite the undeniable skill of the musicians, the album lacked standout songs, and the production by Steve Cropper didn’t quite hit the mark.

A New Direction: The Birth of the Yellowjackets

In response, the record company decided to take a different approach for Ford’s next project. The supporting band, now calling themselves the Yellowjackets, secured their own record contract, primarily featuring compositions by Russel Ferrante.

The Digital Revolution: The Yellowjackets’ Debut

This decision led to the birth of one of the first all-digital CDs, the Yellowjackets’ self-titled debut in 1981, which later received a bonus edition with four unreleased tracks in 2004. The transformation from “Inside Story” to the Yellowjackets’ debut was nothing short of remarkable.

Better Songs

The Yellowjackets presented a repertoire with richer and more sophisticated melodies, setting the stage for their extraordinary musical journey.

Better Arrangements

The songs showcased depth and flow, suggesting they had been finely tuned through live performances, highlighting the band’s remarkable tightness and interplay.

Better Sound

The digital recording technology brought a level of clarity and precision to the music, allowing listeners to appreciate the subtleties of each instrument, including Jimmy Haslip’s exceptional bass playing.

Better Robben Ford

Armed with superior material and a refined tone, Robben Ford delivered a series of mesmerizing solos that demonstrated his prowess, blending ferocity, melody, and emotion seamlessly.

Russel Ferrante: The Maestro of Composition

Russel Ferrante, the band’s keyboardist and composer, played a pivotal role in the Yellowjackets’ success. His compositions were marked by intricate melodies and complex tempos, drawing inspiration from various musical genres, including swing, jazz, lounge, and gospel. Ferrante’s ability to make synthesizers shine without falling into clichés was a testament to his artistry.

Ferrante’s virtuosity is clearly displayed on this introduction.

Collaborative Songwriting

While Ferrante stood out as a composer, other band members, such as Lawson, Haslip, and Ford, contributed to the songwriting process, resulting in an excellent collection of tracks.

Jerry Hey’s Horn Arrangements

Moreover, the addition of Jerry Hey’s horn arrangements elevated the music to new heights, with Hey even taking a rare solo on “The Hornet.”

The Producer’s Touch: Tommy LiPuma

The Yellowjackets’ debut, produced by Grammy winner Tommy LiPuma, marked a significant chapter in Robben Ford’s career, capturing the essence of a style characterized by complexity and sophistication akin to Steely Dan and Larry Carlton.

A Lasting Milestone

In addition to the original seven tracks, the Yellowjackets’ bonus edition included four demos with Robben Ford’s mesmerizing solos, making it a must-have for fans of both Ford and the Yellowjackets.

A Musical Journey Continues

While Ford has explored different musical styles throughout his career, the Yellowjackets’ debut remains a cherished milestone for those who appreciate the intricacies of musical complexity and virtuosity.

A Memorable Reunion: Yellowjackets with Robben Ford at the John Anson Ford Theater in 2006

The bond between fans and the original lineup of the Yellowjackets with Robben Ford has been unwavering over the years, leading to several memorable reunions. One of the most unforgettable gatherings took place at the John Anson Ford Theater in Los Angeles in 2006. As a fortunate member of the sold-out audience that evening, I had the privilege of being seated next to none other than Elton John’s longtime bandleader, Davey Johnstone.

The anticipation in the air was palpable as the band took the stage. True to form, they were predictably tight, and Robben Ford wasted no time launching his guitar solos into the stratosphere where blues and jazz converged. It was a musical experience that left an indelible mark on all who were fortunate enough to witness it.

However, time has a way of changing the landscape of our cherished memories. Sadly, since that reunion in 2006, the gifted drummer Ricky Lawson has passed away. As a result, there will be no more RFB (Robben Ford Band) or Yellowjackets reunion concerts to look forward to.

Yet, amidst the passage of time, we remain fortunate. We still have that remarkable debut album, a digital masterpiece that continues to shine in all its glory. It serves as a timeless reminder of the incredible talent and camaraderie that defined that era of music, capturing a moment in time that will forever resonate with fans and enthusiasts alike.

Similar Posts