As Summer Into Autumn Slips Concludes With Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, WOLF! & William Tyler
The JFJO OG Trio had last played on the East Coast in 2007.
The Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey OG Trio lineup featuring bassist Reed Mathis, keyboardist Brian Haas and drummer Jason Smart reunited for their for East Coast performance since 2007 on Saturday night at JamBase’s As Summer Into Autumn Slips event at Soundcheck Studios in Pembroke, Massachusetts. Along with JFJO’s thrilling set, the second night of the two-day event saw performances by WOLF! featuring Scott Metzger and another appearance by guitarist William Tyler.
About midway into JFJO’s set, Haas explained the circumstances that led to their participation in As Summer Into Autumn Slips, whose original lineup included multiple nights of The Slip. Haas explained The Slip guitarist Brad Barr tore his rotator cuff while sliding into third base during a recent softball game. Haas also revealed an illness prevented The Slip bassist Marc Friedman from joining JFJO as a special guest. After the pause, JFJO delivered a stirring rendition of the Mathis-written original he titled “The Slip.”
“Round of applause who was at Berkfest 2001?” Mathis asked the audience. “OK, 80 of you, great. Did you see The Slip on the mountainside that year? I wrote that song a week later based on their improvisation that day at Berkfest. Of all the places in the world that might actually get that reference this room is probably the top place. I want to thank you guys for coming. I also just want to thank The Slip for the music they’ve given us for the last 800,000 years.”
When Haas, Mathis and Smart took the stage, an instant intensity proliferated from the trio’s first note to their last. There’s a sense of urgency in the way the three musicians interact onstage, constantly challenging and encouraging each other while making their way through complex compositions and dynamite improvisation.
Haas’ playing was melodic and vibrant as it incorporated piano, Fender Rhodes, Moog synthesizer and melodica throughout the night. Mathis played guitar, but at times pitched its sound down an octave to induce the tone of a bass guitar. Mathis also played his guitar without the pitch shift, leaving the low end to Haas’ left hand. Smart was able to skillfully shift from a foundational pocket to vigorous on-the-spot jamming with deft and ease.
Kicking off the first JFJO OG Trio East Coast set in 15 years was “Oklahoma Stomp.” Soon, those in attendance were reminded that “jazz” is right there in the Tulsa-born band’s name. Both “Oklahoma Stomp” and “The Slip” were recorded in 2008 for the album Winterwood that was finally released last year. Additional songs off Winterwood that appeared in Saturday’s setlist include “Song of the Vipers” and “Dove’s Army Of Love.”
After dealing with a faulty amplifier on the opening song, Mathis was able to fully embrace his guitar tone on “The Time Is Now,” which can be heard on the band’s 2005 album, Self is gone. JFJO dug into another Oklahoma-inspired tune, pulling up “Muskogee Smalls.” Mathis infused a brief “The Star-Spangled Banner” tease within the song from their 1998 album Welcome Home. Continuing to pull from across their catalog, the trio segued into “Hover” from the 2003 album, Slow Breath, Silent Mind.
Haas was the star of a subsequent “Thelonious Monk Is My Grandmother,” layering together a series of melodic runs while Mathis and Smart helped guide the groove. The set progressed with “Song Of The Vipers” and “The Slip,” before the trio launched into “Tomorrow We’ll Know Today,” which served as the title track to a 2006 live compilation.
Haas, Mathis and Smart exchanged endearing looks throughout the set as the longtime friends and bandmates smiled their way through the career-spanning performance. Seemingly teetering on the edge of falling, what was apparent throughout JFJO’s set was how the three musicians supported and lifted each other allowing for risks to be taken with rewarding results.
The latter part of their set saw the band continuing to explore new improvisational territories while mining their deep repertoire of instrumental original songs. Rounding out the night was “Dove’s Army Of Love” and “Lola And Alice,” the latter from the 2004 album, Walking With Giants. For their final act, the JFJO OG Trio punctuated their long-awaited performance together with another Self is gone gem, “Fourth Aye.”
WOLF! featuring guitarist Scott Metzger played their set prior to JFJO. Rounding out the trio is bassist Jon Shaw and drummer Taylor Floreth who aided Metzger over the course of an hour on instrumental tunes that delighted the audience. Making his Fender Telecaster guitar sing throughout, Metzger helmed an inviting performance that demonstrated the group’s tight dynamics. Ranging from gentle jazz to twangy Americana to straightforward rock, the Tele-driven sounds coming from the Soundcheck Studios stage were immensely captivating.
The band played a few songs from their forthcoming EP, Adult Entertainment, which arrives on October 28 through the terrific Royal Potato Family record label. Among the previews of the upcoming release was the recently issued single, “Hey Francis” and “Patty Cake.” Metzger, a member of Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, additionally led the rhythm section on covers “Tighten Up” by Archie Bell & The Drells and “Sleep Walk” by Santo & Johnny. Other highlights of the WOLF! set were “Pork N Slaw” and “Whiskey Mister,” which appeared on their 2016 album, 1-800-WOLF!.
Starting off the night was another solo set by guitarist William Tyler, who also performed on Friday at As Summer Into Autumn Slips. Like the first night, Tyler started on an acoustic Martin that has been in his family for many years before switching over to an electric Telecaster.
The acoustic section got the night of music going with “Sunken Garden” from 2016’s Modern Country, holding the opening slot. Tyler progressed through “Missionary Ridge” from the Nashville native’s 2010 debut LP, Behold The Spirit. He then went back to Modern Country and “Kingdom Of Jones.” Next, he pulled from his 2015 release, Desert Canyon, via “Waltz of Circassian Beauties.”
Switching from the eloquent finger picking on the Martin to the expressive building of soundscapes on his Telecaster, the track “Pisces Backroads” off his 2020 EP New Vanitas built a dramatic drone-like soundscape that enveloped the venue in pulsating sound. Giving an electrified taste of Modern Country, the third song played off the record was “Gone Clear.” Spanning nearly 20 minutes, the expansive final two songs of Tyler’s set were Tele-steered takes on “We Can’t Go Home Again” from 2013’s Impossible Truth and “Tears And Saints,” which appeared on Behold The Spirit.
From William Tyler’s moving opening set, through WOLF! and Metzger’s impressive musicianship and JFJO’s exuberant execution, the three instrumental performances were void of lyrics but filled with passion and encouragement. Adding in the three instrumental sets on Friday equated to a massive amount of (mostly) original music played by the musicians that passionately composed and birthed them into life.
The two nights were loaded with nostalgia and a fresh outlook on the future, knowing the rich community of music makers and lovers can come together in such a special space and try to capture magical moments. As Summer Into Autumn Slips took its name from an Emily Dickinson poem, which fitting concludes with the stanza:
So we evade the charge of Years
On one attempting shy
The Circumvention of the Shaft
Of Life’s Declivity.
With the event behind us and the fall now in full swing, the charge to go see live music remains for the rest of the seasons to come.