Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
February 18, 2001
Jaxx | Springfield, VA

I had heard an immense amount of talk about the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, had listened to some MP3s, and thought I was ready for what I was going to hear. I was not. The one thing that I left the performance with was the overwhelming feeling that I had just seen music in a way that I had never seen it before. I had been presented with a negative of the music that was actually played - as in a photographic negative. Throughout the performance the players danced around the pieces that they actually played. It was as if someone were to paint an eloquent picture of an apple, yet not actually paint the apple. Still, the beauty of the apple is clear in your head, but there actually is no apple painted on the canvas.

Although I don't have a setlist, I do remember certain pieces that are forever etched in my mind. The opener was Fourth Aye from the new album Self Is Gone. The piece begins with the drums laying down a driving eighth-note pattern on the ride cymbal. Very similar to the opening of Pharoah's Dance off Miles Davis's Bitches Brew. The difference in this piece is the ostinato-type motive that enters on the Rhodes. With the drums and Rhodes pushing along, the bass finally gives way to the undulating ostinato. The entire time leading up to this was the drawing of an outline of the aforementioned apple. As they all finish the outline together, they begin to flourish the surrounding area (around the apple) with color, tone, and most of all, emotion. All of this occurs in the moment with nothing anywhere being close to pre-concieved. This would hold true for all of their compositions, although their repetoire retains quite a variety of styles.

Another piece that particularly took me was entitled Pacific. Which Reed Mathis (bass) explained that it was inspired by the Northern Pacific Ocean. This immediately set the tone for the piece. Brian Haas (Rhodes) & Reed both filling space nicely and patiently as Matthew Edwards (drums/percussion) creates some nice textures with mallets & brushes. All of this following the same model of the picture of the apple. Reed then began with what I could only describe as "whale song" all performed in an extremely expressive manner. The setting slowly falls into a slow washy waltz type decending progression - the type of harmonic progression that you could hear for hours. Back to the apple picture. Just as they had established the "motive" of the piece (the decending waltz progression) they stepped outside of it... yet all the while remaining well within the context of the "motive." After a great Rhodes solo, Reed switched on his pitch-shifter which brought pitch of his bass up to the range more closesly related to a six string guitar. All the while Brian is playing the bass line on the low-end of his Rhodes, constantly adjusting the volume and tone creating an undulating motion. After a very spiritual bass solo the group returns to the decending progression and then quietly receeds to the depths of the ocean of sound that they have created.

Other highlights of the night involved compositions like No Method, a rousing version of Duke Ellington's Caravan that featured a fantastic solo by Matthew Edwards. I've really fallen back in love with music after hearing the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. Not that I didn't love it before, but unique perspectives such as this really make you take a step back and "let it all in." Many thanks to the JFJO for bearing their souls on a nightly basis. It is not an easy thing to do in today's music world. JFJO may not be for everyone, but I'm sure that those who are brave enough to "let go" will be more than inspired.

William J. Turfcott
JamBase Virginia Correspondent
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[Published on: 2/20/01]

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