The Ye11ow 11 - Have You Been Good? Review

Photography: Anna Ladd

Photography: Anna Ladd

Have You Been Good? is the brand new double album from Philadelphia based jazz outfit Ye11ow Eleven Big Band. In a world where musicians struggle to stand out, I think these guys might just have a shot. 

In nearly an hour and a half of music, this album evokes some of the legends of big band jazz, without sacrificing its own originality. The occasionally chaotic horn section brings the Mingus Big Band to mind. The rhythm section is tight and unyielding. 

The opening track, entitled "Just Me," is a nice place to start. It feels very much like the opening of a detective film. The tune is dark and smooth throughout, even when it gets a little eclectic. One of my favorite recurring themes on this album starts right on this track. The solo sections make me feel as though I’m sitting in the corner of a tiny jazz club, cigar and whiskey in hand; until the background parts played by the stellar horn section kick in. Then I might as well be in a ballroom in the 1940’s, dancing with my sweetheart. In the hands of lesser musicians, this might seem like a jarring transition, but Ye11ow makes it feel natural.

Disc 1 ends with one of my favorite tunes on the album, "Lunch Poems." It begins with a frantic rhythm section, aided by some dissonance provided by the rest of the band; but, soon you’ll find yourself listening to a swanky swing tune. And that’s the theme, the song continues to branch off in new directions. The title says it all, "Lunch Poems" sounds like it’s taking me through a number of musical short stories, with an overarching theme and a clever ending.

Disc 2 gets a nice opening in the form of "Balanced, Always." This track boasts a great piano feature, as well as a very cool saxophone duet, followed by the first of many saxophone solos that really blew me away on the second half of this album. 

By the time I got to the penultimate song of the album, "Spiders," I was very impressed. A dreamy opening gives away to a fiercely rhythmic dance. These guys really know how to name their tunes, the rhythm section makes me think of a spider crawling along a wall. This is the longest track on the album, clocking in at 10:06, but it never feels stale. The piece moves along elegantly and powerfully.

The album ends with the peaceful "Change of Tide." It’s a moving ending to an album that I believe I’m going to enjoy for a long time.

The track list is below!

Disc One:
1.    Just Me
2.    Turning Point
3.    Three Mile Island
4.    Coffee
5.    Endless
6.    Lunch Poems

Disc Two:
1.    Balanced, Always
2.    Sylvan
3.    Fountain of Youth
4.    The Big Picture is Too Big
5.    Spiders
6.    Change of Tide

Overall, Have You Been Good? is solid.

I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the little musical moments that made me smile here, so you’ll have to discover them for yourself. Have You Been Good? comes out tomorrow, July 15th.

Rating: 9/10

Ye11ow Eleven is a big band with their own style, built on a foundation of good players. They frequent Chris’ Jazz Café in Philadelphia around 15th and Samson, and I know that I for one will be checking out a live gig ASAP.  

Check them out on Facebook!