Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, The Mobius, Ashland, OR- 4/14
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey has grown. New instruments, new members, same unadulterated abandonment to honest, gritty explorations of musical psychosis. The music in turn has changed. Instruments filled and tumbled over the stage. So many new tools, toys, talents; they needed a new vehicle to carry their expansion and have lubed this baby with a lot more power and momentum laid like hard wood floors under their patient explorations of sound. Intentional, uncomfortably raw notes folded into this vehicle like rose petals surfing class 5 rapids: the single petal now more profound riding in this raging tide.
Brian Haas and Reed Mathis, the original members, have flared their abilities into new musical mediums. Reed played electric, acoustic and lap steel guitars along with his standard basses. Brian Haas sat tucked in a corner like a mad scientist with an array of keys and manipulation tools. A table of toys unfolded before 4th member, Peter Tomshany, layered with egg carton padding and 12 different saw blades waiting to slice into the music world.
In the first set they played their interpretation of their new album, “Lil’ Tae Rides Again,” start to finish. A hard force, patient, psychedelic and gentle power carried their experimentation on more momentum than past JFJO creations I’ve witnessed. The music had a personality. Wearing different masks it performed a variety show that wailed in Pink Floyd echoes, twinkles, crying and longing. The music’s range was phenomenal and refused to be typecast. Old-time jazz spread so thin you could barely recognize it over the upbeat drums cascading in waves over the drumheads as Josh Raymer followed the weight of his limbs carried by the music. In moments the music sounded like snowironically, the only thing I know that quiets the world completely. They played it delicately, fairy steps, a children’s story time music if not for the full soul search, no rubber gloves, plunge into the dark jagged depths of the full moon holding secrets where no daylight dares shine, that accompanied it. It’s no wonder a full-blown snowstorm broke out in the middle of April.
Reed took rock star strums across his guitar in long, sweeping, powerful crescent falls. Again and again he swept a single bold arc over the frets, ripping it open, a lightning bolt over a soft snow base, but the music was more in the follow-through. It’s always irked me that you have to follow through and continue the full arc of your swing when you hit a tennis or golf ball. The ball’s been hit, it’s gone; it shouldn’t care what you do with the rest of that stroke. Yet, the line of that follow-through determines its path. That’s how JFJO creates music: playing silence in the space between raw and powerful musical swings.
New drummer, Josh Raymer, strapped into the momentum and whisked it to thunder. Strumming fast, out-of-breath, picking across their strings like scratching flesh, obsessed, trying to itch the bone until it all flakes away, Reed and Peter flew into their guitars. Brian played one key at a time. Patient, intentional, a single placed finger on a note, tasting that one sound echoing through the room. A child consumed with the beauty of a petal while the other kids jumped in psychedelic leaves and juggled apples and daggers for bedazzled picnickers below.
Digging deep into the music with small, precise circles etched in the lap steel guitar, Reed massaged loose the quiet, shy notes that usually hide behind the scenes while the larger more outgoing resounding chords steal the show. No sound left unturned, no potential too small. No note was safe.
Slide show images wore a visual interpretation of the music. Digitally manipulated natural images revealed the pictures conjured against my third eye, splat against the wall for all to see. There’s great emotional depth to their music. I don’t understand it but also don’t believe it’s meant to be understood. My arms swung in long slow arches circling in full extensions, smoothing the edges of balls of gravity, clearly shaped, flinging the wound serpent tails of my heart in slow, intentional purgings.
Brian began the encore alonethe only member not to leave the stage. Josh joined him halfway through. The Beatles’ "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" never sounded so good. I thought I was crafty recognizing a single frame or two from the original composition. Turns out they were the crafty ones, playing the exact song, but so uniquely I only recognized a common blip here and there.