Man or myth, Jacob Fred is still a mystery to me, but after last night I damn sure know what a Jazz Odyssey is all about.
Making their second appearance since January within the Hotel Utah's
cramped, rustic setting, the trio once again blew past my initial conceptions and carried all of the small, fortunate crowd into unexpected musical territory, blazing a frenetic trail all their own the entire way. Like a lot of serious, exploratory jazz, this stuff isn't candy-coated and easy to swallow; appreciating it takes a little time and effort. But once you settle into the madness and begin to feel the passion behind the music, its staggering energy and joy are absolutely infectious.
Perhaps I maintain a naïve illusion about the origins behind the band, but I can hear the midwest in their music. Raised and trained in Tulsa, it seems these guys must to be comfortable with vast distances, in wide open spaces, under immense skies that belittle the soul. Their music somehow acknowleges that endless empty space by completely filling it up. It's the photo-negative effect described so well by William Turfcott in his earlier JamBase review of JFJO [Springfield, VA | 2.18.01]. Miles Davis said something to the effect of "It's not about the notes you play, it's about the notes you don't play." Yes, each of these musicians is a total virtuoso on their instrument, but beyond their technical skills they posses the intelligence and strength to allow plenty of breathing room between each other. This give-and-take dynamic leads to some truly moving, pressure - dropping buildups and soaring, melodic climaxes. These brief, revelatory nuggets of utter bliss, arrived at through long, patient, deliberate interaction, reveal the true brilliance of this challenging, innovative music.
The band played songs about their friends, the ocean, about life on the road, about mythical characters, and somehow even without lyrics I was able to completely relate to the theme of each tune. They rocked my favoritie song from their early album Bloom, "Good Energy Perpetuates Good Energy," and even without horns this anthem of positivity made everything right in the world and filled the room an easy feeling of inner warmth and childlike curiosity. I don't know the guys personally, but I felt absolutely welcome in their presence as they built a friendly, collective vibe that brought the crowd closer to the band and to each other. It's something you have to experience yourself to really understand. That's what a jazz odyssey will do to you.
JamBase San Francisco Correspondent
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