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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[Published on: 10/16/06]

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POOP8 Tue 10/17/2006 12:15AM
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Right On!

SKSmith66 Tue 10/17/2006 05:38AM
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JFJO is really great band that is pushing jazz in new directions. I just hope they get back out on the road and tour heavily again in 2007.

PopcornAquarium starstarstarstarstar Tue 10/17/2006 09:37AM
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HELL YEAH!! JFJO puts on an incredible live show every time. Unfortunately I don't think we'll see the days of the heavy early 2000's tour stylings (i.e. now they only play 40+ shows a year, if that) but hopefully they'll hit some of the markets they've neglected over the past few years.

Columbia, MO Fredheads need their fix too!

MaseBase starstarstarstarstar Tue 10/17/2006 04:10PM
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Oh yes... JFJO is an incredibly intense live band. I just saw them do an acoustic show in Berkeley recently. Reed wasn't there and at first I was dissapointed, as Reed is so innovative!! But they had a EQUALLY SICK upright bassist from Philly there - wish i could remember his name!!

The Glick Tue 10/17/2006 05:26PM
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The Glick

these guys rock!

BrotherCal starstarstarstarstar Wed 10/18/2006 04:34PM
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The "Gypsy Tea" improvisation from this album is worth every last penny of your .99 cents...It's transcendent!

Uncle Fishbits starstar Thu 10/19/2006 08:02PM
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Uncle Fishbits

Been a deep Fred fan since 95 in Boulder.. and very lucky to be so close to the band. I adore them... I think Sean Layton's album "Retrospective" is the greatest jam/folk album *EVER*... seriously. But since the new incantation after he passed away, and they became JFJO after "Live at yo mama's".. I mean... all I am saying is this.

They're sound hasn't evolved since 2002. At all. I think. They have even become more mainstream trying to lend their interpretations to an almost all cover album.. possibly garnering *MORE* of a mainstream audience. Why else would they do it? I think the reviewer is way off, or too much of a fanboy, to be able to be even handed. Their shows are so uniform and predictable now, AS MUCH AS I LOVE THEM, I cannot be bothered to go. The crystals, the loose freaky jamouts... it is genius, but it isn't innovative or ever-evolving. It is the same as it has been for the last 1/2 decade. Like I said, I adore them and have been a fan for over ten years... but cowtowing to them is no way to create a legitimate review.

Steph starstarstarstar Thu 10/19/2006 11:40PM
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Mase - Although I didn't catch the Berkeley show I'm willing to bet that the bassist from Philly was Jason Fraticelli.

POOP8 Sun 10/22/2006 08:22PM
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Uncle Fishbits -
What kind of crack are you smoking in Boulder??!!??
You don't think JFJO has evolved since 2002? Are you kidding?? Have you listened to Four Improvisations for the Ghosts? Have you listened to Walking with Giants? Have you listened to this new digital album? Downbeat Magazine gave JFJO's digital album more stars than they gave MMW's new album with Scofield. Do you think that source is 'legitimate' enough? I think this Jambase review gives JFJO credit they deserve.
The guys of JFJO are innovative virtuosos who create a completely different concert every performance - hardly uniform or predictable. Just because they covered some pop songs is no way an indication that JFJO's music is anywhere close to the 'mainstream.'
I'm sorry that you can no longer 'be bothered to go' to JFJO shows. I don't know how the quality of the music would be on crack anyway.
It doesn't sound like you've heard the band play in awhile. There's a bunch of recent music on the jfjo audio player at www.jacobfred.com and I think you will find it very far evolved from the music they were playing in 2002. Somehow, admist your criticism, you still acknowledge that JFJO is genius....hmm?

On a totally different note, I absolutely agree with what you said about Sean Layton's Retrospective album being the greatest folk/jam record EVER. When listening to this, you must have been smoking something better than crack. :)

PopcornAquarium starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/23/2006 07:09AM
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even though i gotta give props to Fishbits cause he's from the yahoo group, he is definitely off his fucking rocker

pjustus starstarstarstar Sat 10/28/2006 12:32AM
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While I do think their sound has become much more polished and possibly mainstream, the assertion that they haven't evolved is insane. They might as well have been a completely different group in 2002. I would even argue that in the past three months alone, they've had a near-metamorphosis into something different still, with Reed now playing 6-string electric guitar on some of the songs and a handful of new tunes that are possibly their simplest and most "song-like" yet (although they continue with an abrasive barrage of sounds, as well).

jazztimmy starstarstarstarstar Mon 12/4/2006 01:36PM
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These freaks are still doing 100 plus shows every year, half of them in Europe, so please take the time to see them live. I agree with PJustus; evolving is one thing these guys don't stop doing....I am flying out for both nights in NYC cause I don't see any more dates listed for a while and NO TWO FRED SHOWS ARE EVER THE SAME. These guys take risks the way it used to be done...so see them this weekend in NYC!!! Rumor has it a new record is in the works?---cheers jambase for writing about such a wide variey of stuff---tim

jokerjoe23 Tue 12/5/2006 07:02PM
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Just got the Sean Layton album after reading these comments. I concur--it's the best album eva!!. More people seriously need to listen to this album!!

Uncle Fishbits Sun 2/25/2007 05:33PM
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Uncle Fishbits

I still believe they are pushing jazz poop... but they are cut into a deep groove now. I have seen them at least 20 times in the last four years. Probably 30 times before that since they were a party band in 1995. I live in SF now, wouldn't miss a show methinks... but it is simply nothing new. They are creating the same sound, albeit evolving and working within it.

No crack, just good vibe. I think they have become a tighter band, but I don't feel they have evolved. From All is one to know, they have become stronger... but I think saying there is an "evolution" between that and now is stretching it.

Don't get me wrong... Walking with Giants is one of the most important jazz albums ever made. PERIOD. But I just don't think they are evolving. I think they are becoming tired of one another and need their space to create new sense of where they are coming from. Hence Haas, etc doin' there own thing. Seeing Reed with Kimock, and Brian doing his freak out is good... as they evolve independently the band will become stronger, more diverse, and have more artistic experience outside to offer one another. But I think the band is sort of artistically becoming .. predicatable.

Call me insane, but I have had chats with people close to them, management and such, and have heard "things". May al be BS, but any band that has been together for 10 years, then decides to do a cover album... either they are stalling, or simply looking for new ideas and material.

Any ideas why they would choose to do that?

Uncle Fishbits Sun 2/25/2007 05:42PM
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Uncle Fishbits

I am simply coming from a music perspective, not necessarily a fan perspective.

And.. I am probably totally wrong. I think Benevento Russo are pushing experimental stuff much further... or even then
Australian sound artist Camilla Hannan (sound is a potent psychological tool that alters mood and perception. Through her radical reinterpretations of field recordings of abandoned spaces, factories, and other industrial sites, she collects remnants from those cold environments and transforms them into paradoxically romantic landscapes of textures and drones)

and especially...
BJ Nilsen .. he released his first recordings at the age of 15. In 1996, Nilsen adopted the moniker Hazard...His work focuses upon the sound of nature and its effect on humans; and through an electronic abstraction of field recordings, Nilsen manipulates the perception of time and space as experienced through sound.

Anything interesting is happening in aural manipulation and walls of sound... which is what JFJO approaches at points. But Reed's whale tweaked bass sound is getting predictable....

and if they want to experiment with sound, the moments of silence are being lost to walls of sound. The empty moments are leaving the band... and they are catching grooves much more often.

And if you want to push good vibe and push limits of sound... you confuse the audience.

They want to release their old albums, and that is indicative that they are out of touch... it will either confuse new fans.. either new fans won't like it and be pushed away, or they will like it and be disappointed that isn't the sound.

I am just saying.. being a hard touring band isn't easy... and I really really miss Mr. Layton. And I think that is the case.

I miss Sean a lot.

sorry to be a downer!