There is still no “Jacob Fred” in the band, but The Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey has certainly lived up to the second half of its name over the course of 16 years and 20 albums. Founded by pianist Brian Haas in Tulsa, Okla., the group has honed its adventurous, improvisational acrobatics on the road since 1994, building on a Jazz foundation but fearlessly experimenting with whatever sounds happen to be in the vicinity. The group has been a “Jam band” fan favorite equally embraced by the Jazz world, which has deemed JFJO one of the ensembles capable of pushing Jazz into the future with the creative vitality to keep new generations interested in the uniquely American artform.
The group’s ever-mutating Fusion continues to evolve with personnel alterations and a seemingly never-satisfied musical curiosity, with Haas being the mad scientist behind it all. In June JFJO premiered “Ludwig,” an experimental rewiring of Beethoven’s 3rd and 6th symphonies performed alongside an orchestra, which received rave reviews and a few turned-up noses from purists (in other words, it was a complete artistic success).
Some of those Classical elements can be heard in the group’s latest release, Stay Gold, which features a key addition — lap steel guitarist Chris Combs — that's given JFJO another unique dimension in its already mega-multidimensional sound. They call it “Red Dirt Jazz,” as Combs’ licks paint new colors, textures and atmospherics around the core piano/bass/drums’ angular playing.
Some worry that Jazz is on the endangered species list, as the speed of culture seems to have little patience for music that's too cerebral and/or abstract. But until we’ve become the society portrayed in the film Idiocracy, smart, creative and colorful music like JFJO’s will always have an audience that craves more from music than flashing lights and hot pants.
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