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Published: 2010/08/30
by Fady Khalil

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
Stay Gold

The Royal Potato Family

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey (JFJO) hails from Oklahoma, and has been playing for nearly two decades. And throughout that time, the troupe has existed in varying forms ranging from a funk-laden octet to a tightly coiled trio. Now, as a quartet, their brand of instrumental jazz simply bypasses the traditional – or even the avant-garde for that matter – to land somewhere near the extraterrestrial. And on their latest LP, their 20th record to date, Stay Gold, JFJO may very well have bridged the gap between wake and sleep with an eight song sensory odyssey that plays much like a sonic phantasmagoria with sounds turned hallucinations, both celestial and bizarre. But it has always been the nature of jazz to cultivate in artists their affinity for invention, and it’s there that JFJO truly revels, and Stay Gold excels.

The ethereal soar of opener, and album single “Sensation of Seeing Light,” may very well have its roots in the metaphysical experience that its title suggests. Based around a hauntingly melancholy riff that comes via Chris Combs lap steel, the song’s moving emotions function as its point of focus. Band founder, Brian Haas, meanwhile provides key strikes through an unaffected piano that dance about the center, infusing the tune with a sense of movement and progression that, like many songs on the album, happens not in fits and stops, but rather in a shapeless, nearly amoebic flow. No clear edges exist, as listeners simply fall into the center of sound, enhancing the feeling that this is not your normal music listening experience, as no doubt, JFJO has intended. Comparisons to acid-jazz forefathers like Weather Report, could be drawn, yet San Franciscan, psych-jazz troupe, Mushroom, have a far more fitting likeness.

As expected, there’s quite a bit of experimentation throughout the album that music fans will particularly find pleasing to their sense of intellect. But JFJO wisely strikes a balance between the progressive-jazz cerebral – songs whose time signatures are nearly algebraic in their complexity (“Trampoline Phoenix,” “This Our Home”) – with more visceral grooves immediately compelling of one’s need to vibe (“Hamby’s Window,” “The Return”). But perhaps no song represents a more eloquent, delicate unison of mind and body as the title-track. A sumptuous euphony of sound, Haas weaves a transfixing piano melody that mesmerizes the brain with its intricacy, while remaining tethered to the here and now by the primal thump of the rhythm section. And it’s here, between Coltrane and Yeasayer, Mingus and Animal Collective, and the very real sense of adventure, that JFJO truly find their stride, and Stay Gold, shines awfully bright.

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