Saturday, October 29, 2005

Music: Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us There are plenty of young jazz acts out there looking to infuse some fresh blood and hipness to the scene, and I've listened to quite a few of them. One group that really blasted me beyond the notion of jazz being a music form whose odyssey has been stalled for the most part is the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. Not only did I begin searching out some more recent jazz and improvisational artists after my initial consciousness-altering encounter with The Fred, but I also started exploring more avant-garde and free forms of improvisation instead of simply sticking to the more commonly known jazz masters like Miles and Herbie and 'Trane.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Their newest release on the Hyena Records label, called The Sameness of Difference reveals a new side of the band that could be described as more mature and melodic while still providing bits of the quirkiness that was so typical of their often chaotic live performances. Recorded in a studio session with legendary jazz producer Joel Dorn, this album features Brian Haas on acoustic piano rather than the Fender Rhodes that I was expecting, along with fellow band members Reed Mathis on bass and Jason Smart on drums. Dorn suggested to them that they perform their own takes on some jazz standards that influenced them, which eventually extended into songs from other genres members of the band have an appreciation for. The result is an album with only a few originals as the band also features covers of tunes by Jimi Hendrix, Bjork, Charles Mingus, Flaming Lips, Neil Young, Brian Wilson, The Beatles, and Dave Brubeck.

The musicianship is top notch as is Dorn's production efforts, and this album is their most polished and impressive to date. The only slight downside to me is that the longest track on the album is their rendition of the Charles Mingus classic "Fables of Faubus", which chimes in at 6:05. For a band that has made a name for themselves over the years by displaying some serious improvisational ability in the live setting with many compositions (some completely improvised on the spot) extending well beyond just a few short minutes, some of the song lengths were a surprise to me. Regardless of the short and consise nature of the finished products, they are sweet and open the door for new fans to hop aboard the odyssey as accessibility is at an all-time high.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Before I get to the tunes I'm offering up, I'll briefly note a couple of interesting things about the band. One is that while the band members are not neccessarily libertarian in their political orientation, they have been active in getting people to question authority. As is shown along the side of Brian Haas's Fender Rhodes (see pic.), they have been giving out free stickers at their shows with the following message: A TRUE PATRIOT QUESTIONS OUR LYING GOVERNMENT. They're also critical of modern medicine to a degree, as shown by the message appearing on the other sticker they offer up: DOCTORS SHOULD TEACH NUTRITION NOT PHARMACEUTICAL ADDICTION.

The other thing I'll mention before getting to the music is that while listening to the songs, you'll notice an instrument that certainly doesn't sound like a piano (acoustic or electric), a bass guitar, or drums. While Haas occasionally tweaks with the sound of his Fender Rhodes or whips out a melodica to spicen things up, it is bassist Reed Mathis who is known for his tweaking. He often uses an octave pedel and other effects with his bass guitar, allowing him to create otherworldly sounds with the bass while Haas lays down a bassline on the keys. The effects make for some wild sounds for your ears that have gathered the attention of many and has made Mathis a hot commodity among bassists.

Since there is often a sharp contrast between how they sound on their new album and how they sound live with a Fender Rhodes, I'm going to provide a few songs from the album followed by live versions that reveal a totally different side to the compositions. First up is a song that they have been performing live for a couple of years now titled "Slow Breath, Silent Mind", a song that is also the title track of one of their live albums.

ALBUM: The Sameness of Difference (Hyena, 2005)
MP3: Slow Breath, Silent Mind

From their performance at Harpers Ferry in Allston, MA on April 29, 2003:
MP3: Slow Breath, Silent Mind (live)

Next up is a song with a catchy theme to it called "Santiago".

From the new album:
MP3: Santiago

From their performance at The Granada Theater in Lawrence, KS on July 9, 2005:
MP3: Santiago (live)

The next song reveals their occasional penchant for mixing some politics into their musical odyssey. I especially love the live version since a song called Halliburton Breakdown should sound evil, and this particular live take is not only fittingly evil, but downright insane!

From the new album:
MP3: Halliburton Breakdown

From their live performance at The Granada Theater in Lawrence, KS on July 9, 2005:
MP3: Halliburton Breakdown (live)

I've decided to throw in a few extra tunes in order to further introduce people to the odyssey of Jacob Fred. The first track is their take on a song written by Howard Deitz and Arthur Schwartz titled "Alone Together". It features Brian Haas on acoustic piano and is from a live album titled Slow Breath, Silent Mind. The other two numbers happen to be my introduction to JFJO. They are from their performance on May 2, 2002 at the Old Pointe Bar in New Orleans (during Jazzfest).

ALBUM: Slow Breath, Silent Mind (Kufala, 2003)
MP3: Alone Together

From the May 2, 2002 show at the Old Pointe Bar in New Orleans, LA:
MP3: Thelonious Monk is my Grandmother (live)
MP3: Hunter Gatherer

3 Comments:

Blogger etnobofin said...

Woah, cool band - I'm going to have to look out for their stuff! (probably hard to find in my part of the world) Nice to hear jazz/improvised music being played in that rock context with a big crowd

Keep it up ;-)

4:35 AM  
Anonymous Diane said...

Great review, interesting band. I really appreciate the live vs. studio samples.

Thanks, freeman.

3:34 PM  
Blogger Taxi Driver said...

I checked out the first track.... then I downloaded ALL the rest. Intresting band. I like it!!

11:22 PM  

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