I finally saw Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey last Wednesday night at Soho in Santa Barbara. Even though I'd been looking forward to it for weeks, I barely made it out due to an unusually draining day. Thank goodness I did because it turned out to be the most enlightening musical experience in my recent memory.
I had an idea what was in store since I own the Jacob Fred album Self is Gone, but little did I know... This band is pure magick! The trio from Oklahoma transformed our cozy, upstairs loft into an experimental sound labratory. I expected a high level of chaotic improv, which it was at times, scraring a few unsuspecting bystanders as I assume the band is accustomed to. However, this was beautifully structured chaos flowing with warmth and deeply-rooted intentions.
Brian Haas, Reed Mathis, and Jason Smart thrive on defying the boundaries of conformity. I watched them perform in a state of reverent awe, so pleased to witness musicians who exemplify what "feeling the music" is all about. I'm so moved by these three beautiful souls who represent such unbridled passion, commitment, and total surrender to the art of manifesting dreams. Jacob Fred's songs have really cool titles. They opened with "Thelonius Monk is My Grandmother," coined after the piano legend who would be proud of what Brian Haas has learned from him.
I'm sure Brian was especially in a "Monk Mood" since he was revelling in the rare opportunity to use Soho's baby grand piano; so much so that he didn't even set up his normal keyboards. I guarantee that this piano, which only serves to take up stage space most of the year, was thrilled to be played by such a master.
Another brilliant song with a catchy title was "Daily Wheatgrass Shots Burned New Pathways Through My Brain." A fine reflection of the conscious living that obviously keeps these guys running at such a high vibration. Besides being aptly named, these compositions, and all of the others, are brilliant accomplishments that reveal very complicated rhythmic and tonal structures. This is definitely not music that can be fully appreciated without intent listening.
Aside from being so inspiring to listen to, JFJO is almost equally enjoyable to watch. Like I mentioned before, they feel every note and their bodies are yet another instrument of expression. Brian Haas undulates like an underwater sea creature, even breathing life into sound through a tubular melodica attachment. He was born to do what he's doing. Reed Mathis is a force of nature. He embodies the primal powers of the sonic universe, channeling tones through his basses from the nether-regions of imagination. Myself and everyone were particularly blown away by his techniques in achieving extraordinarily unique sounds on one bass that looked like an acoustic guitar.
Last but not least is drummer Jason Smart who exhibited an ideal blend of intense focus and relaxed autopilot mode. He always seemed to be playing the perfect thing to keep the groove going amidst complex time signatures. Whether we pick up on it or not, these three are constantly communicating on a very deep level.
In his recent monumental interview with JamBase, Reed Mathis discusses the journey it took to bring this lineup together and how cosmic their connection is. Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey is truly a special entity who separate themselves from the rest in so many glorious ways.
For those prepared to stop, listen and feel,
Take a moment to heal,
This is for real.
JamBase Santa Barbara Correspondent
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