TULSA FREDFEST 2002: A FUNKY JAZZ EXPLOSION

The Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey hosted the first annual Fredfest in its hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma at Curly's on a stormy Saturday, August the 24th. The storm inspired Jacob Fred to include in its set an experimentive improvisation on lightning! The festival was kicked off by DJ Jeremy Soles who, with his wide array of wonderfully crafted samples ranging from Coltrane and Miles Davis to Jim Morrison and Stevie Wonder, created beautifully orchestrated music in between bands. First band up was the young and rawly talented And There Stands Empires. They were comprised of two, yes, two bassists (both students of Jacob Fred's bass genius, Reed Mathis) that dueled along with a barely audible attempt at the piano, some decent, precise drumming and occasionally some help from a Rhodes by one of the bassists. They are quite energetic newcomers with some very interestng ideas, but without the Rhodes in the mix, the dueling bassists overworked the bass register leaving only a hint of quiet piano in the treble and no mid-range of sound at all. But it's my guess that these guys will find the right mix before long and then more attention will be given to their creative chord progressions.

Next was the up-and-coming Oklahoma band Rewake. Wow... I was very impressed. The lead singer/acoustic guitarist had a versatile, very well controlled voice and wonderful melodies, along with a well constructed and energetic band. Their Latin precussionist plus drummer and interesting vocal prefomance equaled a Rusted Root-esque thumping tribal jazzy rock. Pretty damn good electric guitarist, too! Yes, I will definitely be hitting the local spots to check out Rewake lots more.

After some more of DJ Jeremy Soles's interesting musical creations, the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey graced the stage. Anyone who hasn't had the opportunity to hear this amazing band and its jaw-dropping, mad-dope, other-worldly jazz is missing one of the greatest things to happen to jazz since Coltrane. Along with a new drummer, Jason Smart, who is an absolutely ASTOUNDING addition, Brian Haas and Reed Mathis have finally found their ultimate JFJO trio. With Haas's ever-changing, often dissonant, and amazingly resolved Rhodes action, and some equally mind-boggling work on the grand piano, it's no wonder he's stealing the show when jamming with many big acts at festivals around the U.S. Then there is Reed Mathis, who will definitely be one of the most influential bassists of this generation. His bass carries sound like it has wings. Mathis combines a wide array of pedals, effects (including a trippy-sounding toy ray gun that he plays his bass with!), and flat-out mastery of the bass guitar into a blissful experience of funky free-flowing scales and amazingly versitlie melodies and themes that will be adored by any jazz-lover. Together, the trio forms a cohesive unit of ever evolving musical improvisation that I could listen to for days.

JFJO's guest headliner was the brilliant jazzman Charlie Hunter. Now, I had not previosly heard of Mr. Hunter, and after seeing he and his band glue every pair of eyes in the house to the stage, I am amazed that he is playing anything but the largest venues. First of all, there is his instrument: an amazingly-crafted custom Novak 8-string guitar/bass (three bass stings and five guitar, using bass and guitar pickups running to two separate amps), with frets angled down the fat neck to accomidate the incredible wrist action. DAMN, that boy can PLAY! He played the bassline with his thumb and then finger-picked in a way that he could solo along with the full chords. With the fact that he was playing three parts at once, the brainwork caused him to create some very interesting facial expressions, which allowed him to take first place in my favorite "musician's expressions" category. He played along with a right-on drummer and three horns-men on the sax, trombone, and trumpet. They follwed him to the "T" and added some wonderful solos to Hunter's genius.

I would have to say that Fredfest provided Tulsa with a much-needed double shot of jazz. It's going to be interesting to see if JFJO will be able to top this year's headliner, Charlie Hunter, at next year's Fredfest. You should come on over to Tulsa and find out.

Sally Johnson
JamBase | Oklahoma
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[Published on: 8/26/02]

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