Yellowjackets celebrates its 40th anniversary with an amazing party

Yellowjackets celebrated its 30th anniversary ten years ago with a huge concert in the Müpa. This fusion jazz band has seen – and survived – many changes in style and members, and now they are back for another round anniversary. I asked saxophonist Bob Mintzer, who has been playing with the 40-year-old band for 30 years, a few questions during his train ride between two touring stations.

Another Yellowjackets birthday in the Müpa! What are your feelings about playing in Budapest again?

We are happy to be back in Budapest, this time with the WDR Big Band. We will be playing repertoire from the last recording the Yellowjackets did with the WDR Big Band called Jackets XL. The Yellowjackets have had a relationship with the WDR Big Band going back to the early 90’s. I am the chief conductor at the WDR, so this collaboration was a logical pairing. We are delighted to share our latest playing with the audience in Budapest.

I read that you joined Yellowjackets in 1991 when they already played together for 10 years. Why did you decide to join them and how did your presence affect the music of the band?

The Yellowjackets is a leaderless band, a partnership where all members contribute equally to all aspects of band life. Each subsequent personal change always has sent the music in a different direction, although the musical identity of the band has remained strong and identifiable throughout.

Prior to joining the Yellowjackets I had always worked for bands with a leader, or led my own bands. It has been very intriguing to be part of a collaborative band such as the Yellowjackets. I think the partnership aspect is the reason the band has persevered for so long. It helped us to stay consistent in the midst of every change.

But what is this consistency? How would you describe Yellowjackets’ music?

The Yellowjackets music defies category. It is distinctly “Yellowjackets”, the result of four distinct voices joining in a conversation where the whole is far greater than the parts.

How did the cooperation with WDR Big Band start?

As I mentioned, the Yellowjackets did two projects with the WDR in the 90’s. When I became chief conductor in 2015, I immediately considered doing another project with the two bands. The project eventually became the basis for our last cd. The two bands together is a marvelous fit.

Finally, is there anything else that you would like to share with the Budapest audience?

I would only say that we are grateful to have the opportunity to play for the audience in Budapest. The music community in Budapest is very strong, and we are honored to get to perform here.