Words & Images by Jake Krolick

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey :: 06.15.06 :: Chris' Jazz Cafe :: Philadelphia, PA

Over the last decades, there has been a revival of Jazz in the United States. It is similar to the way the “Hardboppers” such as pianist Horace Silver, drummer Art Blakey or John Coltrane brought jazz to its knees in the 1950's. Jazz music today flows out of satellite radios, mp3-pods, car windows, and boom boxes. While the listening devices differ, the medium and underlying messages still remain similar. Today’s jazz is a pure stream of creativity filled with the visions of young inspired performers.

Reed Mathis & Jason Smart :: JFJO :: 06.15.06

One of the new pioneers pushing down the jazz door is the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. Electric bassist Reed Mathis, pianist Brian Haas, and drummer Jason Smart are a new group of hardboppers permeating the music with their hot, sweet compositions. They have moved slowly away from their original electric take on music. Recent releases including their outstanding Sameness of Difference have moved towards an acoustic sound, with Haas sticking to acoustic piano.

It's 8:00 on a rainy Wednesday evening in Philadelphia, June of 2006. Walking into Chris' Jazz Cafe was like walking into a place totally unconstrained by the bounds of time. That wet summer evening could have been anywhere and anytime - Paris 1945, New Orleans 1953. The music of JFJO offered a very similar feeling to the venue that evening. Their music wasn't dated, which lent itself completely to the imagination. This show would offer our imaginations enough fuel to last for weeks. JFJO casually touched down in the midst of a reserved crowd and began what would become a three- set melee of magic in music.

Brian Haas :: JFJO :: 06.15.06
Listed as one of the "100 Best Jazz Clubs in the World" by Down Beat magazine, Chris' appropriate scene contained white-linen-covered tables and candles casting dim fractured light. Shadows fell on the pictures lining the wooden walls, the faces of Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie drinking in the music (and the wine) like the rest of us. They smiled down as the performers took on the music they influenced so heavily. JFJO were surrounded by the forefathers of Jazz and let that greatness take control of the music.

The first set was one of the most extraordinary first sets of music I've witnessed. It started slow and methodical, but soon lost its inhibitions and drove headfirst into a beautiful bevy of notes. The venue lent itself rather nicely to their recent album as the band played a set heavy with the Sameness of Difference. "The Fables of Faubus," a Charles Mingus cover, placed Brian Haas at the heart of the composition. His fingers pranced out light melodic touches building the spiraling towers of music. "Davey's Purple Powerline" lay anchored down by the bottom of Reed Mathis's bass. His bass held a funky tinge through the first set, bubbling up above the music to shake its caboose. Jason Smart was driven into a percussive fury. The possession that took over his body was incredible. He played harder and faster, letting his head turn towards us like a scene out of The Exorcist. His eyes remained shut as he contorted his lower lip, keeping more then pace, but adding depth to the rhythm.

Smart and Mathis owned the stage with a lackadaisical charm that produced an exceptional take on the Beatles' "Happiness Is a Warm Gun." Smart offered tinges of Joe Bromillo, the famed Dave Brubeck drummer through this crafty number. Mathis watched Jason intently as he maneuvered the song's melody with his eerie, sliding octave, pedal-effected bass. He nearly brought the legends out of their pictures as his bass cried for mercy, sounding like a voice from beyond.

Our small but hearty numbers cheered as loud as we could. No one had stood up from the linen-covered tables, but the crowd had managed to work up a significant sweat. By the end of the first set, most had stripped off a layer of clothing, including the band.

Reed Mathis :: JFJO :: 06.15.06
The audience egged the band on and vice versa. The band brought the crowd from tame to cheering in the blink of an eye, turning the formal surroundings of the quaint jazz club on its head. As they finished the first set, someone tossed out the fitting comment that it would be hard to top that set. Smart laughed and Mathis nodded his head in agreement. This band falls into the category of those who are not only traditionally trained musicians, but who read, understand and speak volumes through their music. The second set brought Haas out from the shadow to perform shimmering arpeggios, and the results were exhilarating. The Flaming Lips cover "The Spark That Bled" built to an almost scream-like fury. Listeners couldn't help but feel emotionally connected to the song.

Some points of the show felt like the three musicians were creating this awesome little bubble of sound. They took turns giving it a little more air and pushed the surface of the bubble to capacity. At points, the bubble popped under the pressure and music exploded everywhere. The second set cemented the show as all three musicians connected for a similar rich and lethargic "Fred" mood.

Elliot Levin & Reed Mathis :: JFJO :: 06.15.06
As the evening wore on, we felt like we were trapped in the throws of addiction. We wanted to stop, but we couldn't; our ears held tight to what was coming off these instruments. JFJO's music was the drug distorting reality and taking us to another world. Trapped in the music's grasp, we were in a state of blissful limbo. The Jazz Café started to resemble a wooden galley of a ship with massive oak beams engraved with biblical passages. It slowly rocked back and forth, keeping time with the extraterrestrial sounds of the third set. The "Maestro" offered more of the building jam that attracted many to the jazz trio. As the night slipped away, JFJO pulled us into a deconstructed universe of song and jazz. As we listened to the songs, we were sent whirling in unparalleled directions. The show concluded with a local jazz saxophonist Elliot Levin stepping into the mix. He brought his signature sax wail and single dread, beefing up the finale to a scalding temperature. As the musicians were leaving the stage, the crowd was already in heavy withdrawal and clamored for more. There was a collective effort to elicit just one more number out of the sweaty and spent trio. Smart finally looked at the audience and jokingly screamed, "What do you people want from us?" I think the answer is clear... we wanted more JFJO.

Support these cats. Let yourself go, and JFJO will take you to places deep in your imagination. You dig?

JamBase | Philadelphia
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[Published on: 7/7/06]

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The Glick Fri 7/7/2006 02:23PM
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The Glick

damn these guys are talented!

phishyflanker starstarstarstarstar Fri 7/7/2006 02:51PM
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Enough can not be said about these musicians. Truly Giants in an industry of WalMart plastic. Do yourself the favor and see a show or two and wake up to the sound that is Fred.

snappy Fri 7/7/2006 04:43PM
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Testify, Krolick, testify! JFJO are the finest jazz trio currently pushing life into the genre. I felt this the first time I saw them 5 years back and I feel it everytime I've seen them since. Thanks for delivering the word on their Philly show.

Ching Sat 7/8/2006 03:23PM
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Dats right kidzzzz FRED melts faces....and they bring out the ghost at certain venus...

EVILFUNK starstarstarstarstar Sun 7/9/2006 12:13PM
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scj471 starstarstarstarstar Mon 7/10/2006 12:15PM
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as a musician and even more so as a fan, seeing these guys is like going to church.

BrotherCal starstarstarstarstar Tue 7/11/2006 11:01AM
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Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey...Holy God...Do I love those three musicians making music together...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bird starstarstarstarstar Fri 7/14/2006 03:48PM
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Jacob Fred is an amazing group that I do not get to see enough...

This was a great show!

Go see them whenever possible!

EVILFUNK Wed 7/26/2006 03:35AM
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"melts faces"

that is beautyfull! and true!

dharmabm Mon 8/14/2006 08:52PM
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ummm....joe morello was brubeck's drummer...joe brumillo was the guy that made pizza down the block from brubeck's practice loft...

POOP8 Mon 10/9/2006 10:18PM
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mesmerizing geniuses. JFJO's music taps into your cosmic spine.