By Trevor Pour
In the music business, the keys to success have and always will be blistering guitar solos, bright lights, and big name guests, but there are some who measure success not by the size of the venue or the amount on the paycheck, but the simple value of their craft. Three humble musicians in particular have been lurking behind the wings for over six years now, crafting intellectually challenging and artfully elegant music for audiences across the globe. Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey - a band unwilling to compromise their creativity for the mainstream ear - has developed a constantly evolving sound unlike virtually anything on today's market. But then, you couldn't expect any less from a band who lists Charles Mingus, Neil Young, and Bjork among their influences.
No two live JFJO concerts are even reasonably alike. Some shows are acoustic, many are electric, some are crowded, while others draw an audience of only a few dozen. So it was in true form that the release of Tomorrow We'll Know Today, arguably the band's most genuine album to date, was overlooked by many veteran fans since it was released as "digital-only" and never sold physically in stores. The album is a collection of mastered live recordings from a number of domestic dates, coupled with a superb trio of tunes from a gig at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam.
An opening improvisation from the Gypsy Tea Room in Dallas resonates closer to Benevento/Russo than classic JFJO, but herein lies the real heart of the trio - their breadth of ability matches their vast imagination. When you actually question whether you put the right CD into your player, you know you're listening to a dynamic team of instrumentalists. The following track, an extraordinary adaptation of the Beatles’ "Happiness is a Warm Gun," only serves to further this point. The title track is, like the opening improvisation, a shift in the classic sound of JFJO, but the electronic/acoustic blend on both of these tracks is simultaneously and paradoxically calming and stimulating, which simply underscores their mastery of mood and inflection. Furthermore, sitting quietly amongst these stirring and exciting pieces are the relatively conservative "Up Jumped Spring" and "Vernal Equinox," both equally at home on a classical jazz album. JFJO makes a point to showcase their diverse talents and range of production on this album, and their selection of tracks is thoughtful and deliberate.
Brian Haas (keys) crafts his art with wisdom far beyond his years, Reed Mathis plays a bass unlike anyone I have witnessed in my years on the music scene, and Jason Smart simply needs no voice - he is far more eloquent with his drums than any orator I have heard. This truly is one of JFJO's best albums to date and treads the closest to translating the unrestrained spirit of live performances into re-playable media. The range of sounds on this collection is representative of the capability of this trio; it is equally fit for an introductory album as it is to satiate the most critical jazz aficionado.
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