Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey | Harper’s Ferry | Boston | 11.15.01

They lie in dimension parallel to our own Earthly foothold, carrying with them a message. It challenges the mind and body to be complete with it, to fully open and become one with it. It is not prejudice, nor is it unaccepting of what you give. Rather, the unveiling message is wholly inclusive, but modal comprehension is not easy as the boundaries and limits of instrumentation and complexity are stretched far beyond the mundane, cast forward into a transcendent paradox of illuminary mysticism. Enveloped in sensory essence, the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey poured the nectar of triumph and love over the Heads at Allston’s own Harper’s Ferry for a two-hour festival of passion and escape, including a little help from a good friend and former local cat that has been helping guide his musical kin in the right direction.

At risk of taking away from the experience and being over-adjectival, the music cannot be fully expressed in script; justice cannot possibly be served to their talented minds: The unparalleled and untouchable finger work of Brian Haas, an electrical current running through his body. The playing of Bassist Reed Mathis flirts with rock stardom that not many have ever seen the like of before and may not still. Drummer Jason Smart’s abilities are true of his namesake as the foundation for one of the tightest and most expressive musical outfits. With each piece seemingly consisting of some twenty-eight distinctly different sections, the band known in some circles as the Jacob Fred Mindfuck Odyssey is flawless in their execution. The emanating force and spirituality is a concentric flow of energy sent out into the minds-eye, raising the souls of fortunate.

Treating the Beantown faithful to the melodic conspiracy of their existence, the Odyssey set off on their journey dropping cuts like “Thelonious Monk is my Grandmother,” “Vernal Equinox,” and “Grub Ridge Stomp,” all exploratory in their own nature and masterful in their composition. Often times it became difficult to rely solely on the given five senses to find separation in the music as each tune experiences dramatic variations in structure that challenged one to not simply kneel down in acceptance of the power. “Medicine Music (The Slip)” composed by Mathis is a dedication to the band who has been taking a part in their lives in guidance and friendship which showed in the faces of the Brothers Barr and brethren Marc Friedman in response to this gift.

The invitation for Brad Barr of The Slip to join the Odyssey for “Daily Wheatgrass Shots Burned a New Pathway To My Brian” was much loved by the Allston folk. Many in attendance have been part of The Slip family since the first roots were planted in Allston in the early 1990s and came from parts extended to join their brothers and sisters for this joyous celebration. Haas and Barr conveyed a meeting in dissonance, trading aura one at a time. Each opened the door for each other to work, Haas’s left hand holding the low end as Mathis and Barr got down with it for a bit. As always Jason Smart was genius, kicking breakbeats with neck-jarring precision as the four brought their sounds off the Earthly plane. Brad left the stage in the most modest of fashions, getting hugs from the boys of Tulsa and the Odyssey dipped into it some more, feeding the nerve-center as well as the hips.

As musicians, minds and people, the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey invokes feelings of grace and conscious living, carrying with them words of righteousness and naturalism, “Create your own religion and practicing every day... Be your own doctor and heal.” These messages akin to their music are both progressive and nostalgic in the same sense. Although they are not recreating any one genre of music, a close listen gains clarity within the permeating fire finding roots with which we are all familiar. Ideologically they are speaking words once spoken, but unheard by many. Finding a collectivity within these ideas shall yield what we hope to soon find amongst the people of this world, harmony.

Through their music, the Odyssey is spreading these feelings. An extensive tour continuing in November and through December will grant many the opportunity to share in the experience, but it is up to you to do it for yourself. Don’t sleep. Be aware of what is being created around you. These are times where we must turn to creation and progress, not destruction and digression. Keep the mind open and warm yourself in positivity and experience and move forward and live messages of harmony and bring these messages out to others.

Robert Krevolin
JamBase | New York (on location up I95)
Go See Live Music!

My first true Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey show turned out to be just that; a jazz odyssey. JFJO played an intense show here in Boston last night at Harpers Ferry. It was their first time playing Harpers and to their delight they played in front of a pretty packed room. The word seems to be out already about this hot jazz trio out of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

JFJO's music is definitely interesting to say the least, it is also hard to describe. They started their first song off with a nice groove. In one second we heard tight structured grooves, then bang! an explosion of sounds and beautiful noises. JFJO is capable of literally exploding musically at the drop of a hat. Keyboardist Brian Haas will hop out of his seat and bang away and make faces at his Rhodes piano. In the first 3 minutes JFJO had everyone going crazy. Myself, I just couldn't stop smiling.

The next tune they played, incredibly called "Thelonious Monk is My Grandmother," blew the socks off the room. This song is a good example of what JFJO are trying to achieve with their music. Thelonious Monk is a huge influence on the band, and you can really see it in this song. Although there is some structure to all JFJO's songs, the middle is kind of an open ground. Improvisation is the key, for JFJO jazz = improvisation. They are a free jazz band, reminiscent of much earlier jazz bands, such as Thelonious Monk, but updated with a 2001 touch. You can't help but make comparisons to MMW, although their music is clearly different. Picture seeing MMW on about 26 hits of acid. Then you might come close to JFJO's sound.

When you initially see JFJO you wonder how a trio can achieve such sounds. Then you begin to notice the magic Reed Mathis does with his Fender jazz bass. He has 3 effects pedals which completely alter the sound of his bass. At times his bass sounds like a six-string guitar, other times it becomes the keys and Brian will take up the bass on his instrument. Reed's dexterity amazes me, he moves up and down that bass so quickly and precisely.

At times Reed literally slaps his bass. And I'm not just talking about playing slap bass, although he does that too, I'm talking about physically slapping and hitting his bass. Repeatedly. In fact, both Reed and Brian seem to almost be beating up their instruments. Maybe that's the key to their sound, playing their instruments harder then anyone else I've ever seen.

Talk about energy, Brian plays with more than anyone I can think of. He almost rips the keys off his piano, he plays so ferociously. And his energy is sent through the audience, who in turn sends it back, creating this cycle of energy in the room that JFJO plays off. And keeping the beat perfectly through all the madness, is Jason Smart on the drumkit.

A couple more songs including one called "The Slip" about 3 freaks who happened to be in attendance. JFJO has come a long way in what seems like a short time, although a lot of you might not know that they've been around since 1996, when they actually opened for MMW. Imagine seeing MMW and JFJO, back in 1996! You can see that JFJO is widely respected by its peers. The Slip wouldn't miss this one, Scofield loves the band, and Charlie Hunter just gave them an opening slot on his new tour. Folks, this all means one thing, this band is no joke. They have finally arrived and they are here to stay.

After "The Slip" the world famous Brad Barr of The Slip came up on stage to join the band on guitar for a couple songs. Wow, what a treat, one of my favorite guitarists joining a jazz trio with no guitarist. What could be a better fit? Apparently nothing. From the first noises Brad omitted from his guitar he fit in perfectly. He started out just adding some noises to the mix, a song called "Roustabout," then the jam escalated and Brad was firing off sick solos, much to the delight of Brian shouting over encouragement from his side of the stage. Next they played a crowd favorite "Daily Shots of Wheatgrass Burned a Brand New Pathway Through My Brain." Which reminds me, these guys have the coolest titles for their songs. Another awesome jam, and it made me think how full these guys sound with a guitarist. My buddies who were with me all said they thought the band sounded better with a guitarist. I had to agree that they sounded great, but I love them as a trio. JFJO started out as a 7-piece, and have cut it to just a 3-piece, and for a reason. They obviously are enjoying the sound they achieve as a trio, and it seems to be working for them. I believe that one of their strengths is the fact that they are a trio. They have experimented with a different number of band lineups and this one seems to be the most successful. I say if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Not that seeing a great guest guitarist like Brad join the group isn't fantastic, because it was.

They played a couple more songs and then it was time to say goodnight. What a refreshingly original night of music. These guys have really perfected their sound, they have it down to an art. It's great to see them start to get the recognition they deserve. I only have one piece of advice for these three, come to the East Coast more often!

Sam Katz
JamBase | Boston
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 11/16/01]

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