Not There Yet
Release Date: March 27, 2020
Label: Tiddlywinks Music
Under the direction of Joel Adams, the 13-piece Chicago Yestet presents a stunning, diverse release which addresses the persistent problem of race relations in this country, and is a plea for justice and unity. Composer, bandleader, and trombonist, Adams wrote the wide array of compositions featured on ‘Not There Yet’ over the past 5 years. The ensemble is made up of vocalist Maggie Burrell; spoken word artist Keith Harris; saxophonists Geof Bradfield; Chris Madsen and Nick Mazzarella; trumpeters Chuck Parrish and Russ Johnson; trombonists Tom Garling and Joel Adams; bassist Clark Sommers; Guitarist Mike Allemana; pianist Stu Mindeman and drummer Xavier Breaker.
Formed in 2008, the Chicago Yestet performs original music with an emphasis on the groove. Over the course of the past decade, the ensemble has performed throughout the Midwest and has made appearances at festivals such as the Chicago Jazz Festival, Hyde Park Jazz Festival, Isthmus Jazz Festival, and Taste of Chicago. In 2019, the band received a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency to record, and the arduous process of rehearsing, recording, mixing, and mastering began in April, 2019. According to bandleader Joel Adams, “‘Not There Yet’ reflects not only my admiration for Thad Jones and other big bands from the 1960's and 70's but also my love for James Brown and Donny Hathaway. The Chicago Yestet is committed to grooving, is not afraid to play simply and even pretty, and is willing to directly take on political issues through music.”
The album’s title track pairs a laid-back hip-hop, swing groove and an intense, intricate horn arrangement; a nod to the big band tradition that inspired the composer. The track features a poignant, politically-fueled verse by Harris and gorgeous vocalizations from Burrell. Upon listening, one can’t help but pick up on the modernity of the instrumentation deeply intertwined with traditional compositional elements. The first track features an improvisation from Adams on trombone using a megaphone-mute of his own invention which he calls the “megabone”. Upon listening, one might think this is a guitar solo because of the incredibly original, guitaristic tone Adams pairs with his melodic invention. Track 2, “The Long Neglect” goes far to draw the audience in with its hip-hop sensibilities in conjunction with stellar arranging on the part of Adams. The track conjures the energy of A Tribe Called Quest with a swinging horn section in tow.
The upbeat “I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You” harkens back to the classic R&B tracks of the 70’s. Burrell’s voice soars over shimmery guitar and a tightly-locked rhythm section. The piece opens up for a solo by tenor saxophonist Chris Madsen after a stellar verse from Harris, ending dynamically with hits from the full ensemble. Adams’ instrumental epic “Wise One” demonstrates the trombonist’s facility as an arranger. The soli on this track is actually a horn arrangement of John Coltrane’s original solo from this tune off of his album Crescent. In this treatment, trumpet has the lead and is playing Trane’s actual solo which is then harmonized by three saxophones.
The album comes to a close with “Anthem For a New Generation of Sociopolitical Reactionaries”, a stirring composition intertwining a reharmonization of “God Bless America” with the words of Donald Trump, and fiery verses from Harris emphasizing the vocalist’s derision of Trump’s remarks and disdain for his policies. ‘Not There Yet’ strikes the balance between protest album and soul/hip-hop celebration while demonstrating the deep virtuosity of each individual soloist and the cohesiveness of the ensemble as a whole.
LA HABITACIÓN DEL JAZZ
"Como las grandes bandas, formadas por grandes músicos, este Chicago Yestet destaca por sus individualidades y por su cohesión de grupo. Adams, su líder, demuestra su capacidad de liderazgo y alto nivel como arreglista y compositor." Read the full review here.
"There’s action aplenty on Not There Yet by the Chicago Yestet (Tiddlywinks Music). The intent of the 13-person Yestet is to cry out against America’s racist DNA but even if it sails over your head, the music itself is so vibrant, so alive with complex charts and powerful performances by three saxophones, two trumpets and two trombones all buoyed by a bass/guitar/piano/drums base that it can be digested whole on that level alone." Read the full review here.
"Not There Yet stands out for its impressive writing, the handsome ensemble playing, the excellent rhythm section, plus the intelligent lyrics. This music keeps your attention all the way through its 68 minutes; this music begs to be heard and seen in person. Kudos to Joel Adams for his great work in bringing this music to light. " Read the full review here.
"Not There Yet proves the Chicago Yestet is not afraid to celebrate musical diversity as they deftly combine traditional elements of big band jazz, including tight horn arrangements, with edgier elements of hip hop. This is a marvelously engaging and thought provoking album featuring a stellar ensemble that is sure to delight most jazz fans." Read the full review here.
CHICAGO JAZZ MAGAZINE
"The Chicago Yestet is a thirteen-member ensemble that, under trombonist Joel Adams’ directorship, performs dynamic, genre-bending music with a definite social message. Its third release in a decade, Not There Yet, is no exception... the material Adams tackles here is bolder and more ambitious than on previous albums." Read the full review here.
MAKING A SCENE
"Not There Yet’ strikes the balance between protest album and soul/hip-hop celebration while demonstrating the deep virtuosity of each individual and the cohesiveness of a tight large ensemble. The powerful horn parts, imaginative arrangements, expressive solos, and Burrell’s vocals are first rate." Read the full review here.
"Big band jazz from Chicago with an often political, lyrical edge..." Read the full review here.
"If you are interested in a group in which big-band traditions get along with elements of hip-hop culture, then you should listen to Chicago Yestet." Read the full Russian review here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
"This is a project that will both entertain and open the ears of the listeners to a multiplicity of fresh musical ideas and protest." Read the full review here.
"As rioting spreads across the US in response to the murder of George Floyd, the lyrics of the title track of Chicago Yestet's third album highlight the ongoing injustices in a country that has not come far enough in its progression towards racial equality." Read the full review here.