Words by: SuperDee :: Images by: Robert Chapman
JFJO with Steve Kimock :: 06.21.07 :: Southpaw :: Brooklyn, NY
Six and a half years ago, one of the first bands I wrote about for JamBase was the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. Looking back now I can hear the carefree quality to my voice. It was more than just naive hopefulness. It was absolute presence - optimism was just implied because everything in the world was perfect. The year had just turned 2001, I was young and freshly in the fabulous city of San Francisco. Phish had given us a little break to learn about all these exciting musicians coming out of places like Athens, Georgia or South Bend, Indiana or, of all places, Tulsa, Oklahoma. On that fateful Thursday night at the little Hotel Utah in San Francisco, Brian Haas was bleeding on his keys and Reed Mathis was distorting his bass like we've never seen before.
JFJO :: 06.21
Now on another Thursday night in the year 2007, in my renewed home of Brooklyn, NY, these boys continue to amaze me. After a little break, JFJO is back on the road with ferocity. On the Summer Solstice, the boys arrived at Park Slope's Southpaw, where they welcomed very special guest Steve Kimock to join the band for much of the show. The first half of set one was "standard" mind-blowing Fred trio full of pounding keys and blazing bass. I love when circus ringleader Haas says, "Everyone, Reed Mathis on bass guitar," drawing our attention to the seemingly impossible attraction we just witnessed. When Kimock came on, the now four-piece fell into a groove so tight you had to have super human powers to unlock yourself from the pulse of it. Mathis masterfully set a delicious syncopated beat behind the ethereal sounds of Kimock's guitar. We truly are very blessed that the stars aligned to create a musical relationship between Mathis and Kimock over the last few years.
Watching the musical spirits of Haas, Mathis and Kimock weave in and out of each other was amazing but what I really came to tell you about is what was going on behind the drum kit. About six hours before the show the show, I got an email from Brian Haas saying, "We have a new drummer who is amazing. Do you want to come hear a highly evolved JFJO?" A new drummer?!? But... but we love Jason Smart. With all the drummer changes in the 14-year history of The Fred - from Matt Edwards to Richard Haas to Smart - Jason became a seemingly permanent fixture in Fred world for the past six years that perfectly complemented Haas and Mathis, both musically and personally. I fear change!
Fred fans, you can breathe easy, for I found a new vibrant force on the stage absolutely killing it and completely in the pocket with Mathis and Haas. By the end of the night, I sheepishly walked up to this young, rhythmic monster to introduce myself and asked, "Um, where did YOU come from?" His name is Josh Raymer, and he is 21 years old and you all should keep a close eye on him. During JFJO's short hiatus, Jah Smart was home in Ohio while Haas and Mathis played weekly in Tulsa. Raymer had spent much of his high school years in Tulsa and had only recently returned. This is a perfect example of "right place, right time" as Raymer has long loved the Fred and was now given the opportunity to be an integral part of it. "I'm having the time of my life," he shared with me.
JFJO :: 06.21
All is well with the boys and Jason Smart. The time had just come for them to part ways musically. They say that all good things must come to an end but they also say that every end brings a new beginning. So be it. I look forward to hearing what Mr. Smart will be up to next!
So, here I was wrapping up the longest day of the year with the ever-evolving Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and their friend Steve Kimock. Reed Mathis spent most of this second set on regular ol' electric guitar, absolutely shredding it. They performed a Kimock tune, the bright "A New Africa," which was given a proper Fred treatment. To close the show, they gave a nod to the changing seasons with "Vernal Equinox." That's the thing about The Fred, it's always a changing season and you never know what's going to happen next. Stay tuned.
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