Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Fox Theater, Boulder, 7/13
As I walked up 10th Street in Boulder, CO Saturday night, the marquee at the Fox Theatre read, “LETTUCE with Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey”. While the prominence of the letters indicated the respective celebrity of these two bands, the show itself reaffirmed the old adage that size doesn’t matter. I mean no disrespect to Lettuce, a very talented 7 piece funk review featuring Soulive’s Eric Krasno and under-heard drummer Adam Deitch. However, my ears were drawn not to the septet's funk standards and party-down stage presence but rather to the fiercely innovative performance of the trio that preceded them on stage.
It’s no secret that popular music is currently an overproduced, homogeneous corporate farce. For the last half decade, radio has offered us all of the creativity and progress of a mega mall Starbucks. Yet as this storm of banality continues to churn, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey are casting a beacon of ingenuity all the way from Oklahoma. Last night, like every night, Rhodes pianist Brian Haas, bassist Reed Mathis, and drummer Jason Smart fearlessly leapt into the realm of free form jazz with a jaw dropping blend of previously created pieces and on the fly improvisations.
On “Lovejoy” Haas deftly balanced multiple melodies by weaving the relative delicateness of the Rhodes with the almost shrill cries of the melodica- an instrument that incidentally, Haas performed on with Les Claypool at last year’s Berkshire Mountain Music Festival. On “Hover”, Mathis once again created the sonic fusion that makes it an injustice to simply call him a bassist. And while his stony demeanor does not draw as much attention as Haas’s trance like thrashing or Mathis’s close-eyed embracement of every note, Smart’s incredible ability to find a rhythmic center among the scattered musings of his band mates was very obvious on the spontaneously conceived, “We Love Being In The Mountains Part Two”. Yet JFJO outdid themselves with their final song, an ode to springtime in Oklahoma called “Vernal Equinox”, which need only be described as beautiful. True to its source of inspiration, Vernal stirs longing for memories past while also inspiring hope of rebirth.
It is possible that the music industry’s zealous monetary infatuation will hamper Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey’s ability to achieve the prominence and popularity that their talent so very much deserves. Yet in this world of automated beats and formulaic song cloning, their intrepid commitment to improvisation and uncompromising belief in musical originality are the modern embodiment of Monk, Coltrane, and Miles. JFJO should not be missed by anybody who still believes in the power of live music.