Bob Mintzer: tenor, soprano saxophone
Russell Ferrante: keyboards
Dane Alderson: bass
Will Kennedy: drums
In 1977, guitarist Robben Ford was recording his first solo album when he assembled as his band keyboardist Russell Ferrante, bass guitarist Jimmy Haslip, and drummer Ricky Lawson. They were then signed to Warner Bros. Records by producer Tommy LiPuma, who chose the name "Yellowjackets" from a list that band members compiled.
While Yellowjackets made their 1981 debut as a jazz-fusion band that highlighted guitarist Robben Ford, the group's sound became more R&B-oriented after Ford's departure with Marc Russo's crisp alto saxophone and soaring high-register solos. With original members Russell Ferrante on keyboards and electric bassist Jimmy Haslip, and new drummer Will Kennedy, the band found its own R&B-ish sound, sometimes playing original compositions that sounded like Joe Zawinul at his most melodic.
In the '90s, Russo chose to go out on his own and plays regularly with The Doobie Brothers. His replacement, Bob Mintzer (on tenor and bass clarinet), added more jazz credibility to the group's music. They moved back to Warner Brothers in 1995 for several albums before moving to Heads Up International for the live two-CD set Mint Jam in 2002. 2003 saw the release of their first studio album in five years, Time Squared. Three years later, the band celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary as an ensemble with the release of the live album Twenty Five.
In May 2008, the Yellowjackets released their 20th release, Lifecycle, also on Heads Up International. Lifecycle features guitarist and label-mate Mike Stern, making it the first Yellowjackets record in 15 years to feature guitar (1994's Run For Your Life featured Robben Ford on the track Even Song). The album was nominated for the 2009 Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. Russell Ferrante was nominated for Best Instrumental Composer for the track "Claire's Closet."
On January 30, 2012, bassist Felix Pastorius announced on the social media website, Facebook, that he would be replacing original bassist Jimmy Haslip for about a year. "I guess its official, I'm a yellowjacket!” Pastorius stated in his Facebook post, he said that Haslip is "healthy and happy and just wanted to take the year off to focus on other things...". Consequently, in June, 2013, this new group released a new studio album, A Rise in the Road, with Felix Pastorius on bass – on some of the tracks actually playing Jaco Pastorius' original fretless bass, loaned from its current owner, Metallica's Robert Trujillo. On April 20, 2015, Russell Ferrante announced on the Yellowjackets forum that Dane Alderson would be taking over the bass duties from Felix Pastorius.