Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
|Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey|
Instrumental Hip Hop
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey (or JFJO or The Fred) is a unique, USA Instrumental Music group started in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1994. The band has had 16 different members in 20 years and put out 25 albums. The group began with different monikers and members in the early 90s including founding members Brian Haas and Reed Mathis, as well as Sean Layton, Dove McHargue, Matt Leland, & Kyle Wright. In 1994, after repeated viewings of This Is Spinal Tap and increased attendance at their shows, the band members agreed on "Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey" as the band's new name. ("Jazz Odyssey" coming from a scene in the aforementioned Rob Reiner mockumentary and "Jacob Fred" being what Haas wanted his unborn brother to be named at age 3.) JFJO is now a trio, with members hailing from Tulsa & Santa Fe. The current lineup consists of Brian Haas on piano, Fender Rhodes and synthesizers, Josh Raymer (joined 2007) on drums and Chris Combs (joined 2008) on electric guitar, lap steel, and synthesizer.
History and classifications
Originating in Tulsa, Oklahoma as an octet with a horn section in 1994, JFJO became a trio in the summer of 2000, initially performing as the Jacob Fred Trio in January 2000. Drummer Matthew Edwards left the group in early 2000; his replacement was Richard Haas, the brother of Brian, who performed with the group until October 2001. Jason Smart joined in late October 2001, becoming a member of the band until 2007. After Smart's departure, in June 2007, it was announced that Josh Raymer would be replacing Smart on drums. They have toured North America and Europe extensively and shared the stage with Medeski, Martin and Wood, Bill Frisell, Les Claypool, Scott Amendola, Charlie Hunter, Al Di Meola, Stanton Moore, John Scofield, Galactic, moe., Bonerama, Marco Benevento, Joe Russo (musician), Kirk Joseph, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Rebirth Brass Band, Mike Dillon (musician), Skerik, Johnny Vidacovich, Karl Denson, Mike Clark, The Barr Brothers, Joseph "Zigaboo" Modileste, John Ellis, Bluetech, Eskmo, Welder, Vibesquad, Robin Eubanks, Marshall Allen, George Garzone, and Steve Kimock among others.
JFJO's music is not easily categorized; although it is mostly in the jazz idiom, it draws from hip hop, funk and rock music. Critic Alex Henderson describes the band's music as a "mildly avant-garde blend of jazz, rock and funk [that] draws on a wide variety of influences... Often quirky, eccentric and abstract, JFJO favors an inside/outside approach but is usually more inside than outside.", while critic Scott Yanow describes the group as "fascinating". Their live shows include compositions by John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Thelonious Monk among others, and include long experimental improvisations that, at times, could be considered atonal. Furthermore, the band's early years as an octet featured a strong hip-hop influence.
2004 - 2008
In 2004 the band released Walking With Giants, their first album with noted producer Joel Dorn's Hyena Records. Noteworthy for being JFJO's first studio album to contain acoustic piano, Walking With Giants was also the band's first studio album since 2000's Self is Gone.
2005 saw the release of their second album under Dorn and Hyena, The Sameness of Difference, the first release to include JFJO's uniquely arranged covers of songs by diverse contemporary musicians such as Björk and The Flaming Lips, as well as Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Wilson, and Neil Young. It also features original compositions by Haas, Smart and Mathis. In 2005 the band also released 4 Improvisations For The Ghosts, an almost ambient collection of live spontaneous music. In 2006 JFJO also put out the live compilation Tomorrow We'll Know Today: Live in USA and Europe as an online-only release.
The Fred toured little in 2007, as they spent a large amount of time working on their next record in the studio. Drummer Josh Raymer joined the band in June 2007, immediately getting his feet wet at Freihofer's Jazz Festival in Saratoga Springs, New York amongst others. The same year a live sampler of material from the September tour of 2007 was released as an online-only free EP under the title Rich Mahogany.
2008 found the band touring predominantly as a quartet behind their 2008 Hyena release Lil' Tae Rides Again, which was released in April of that year. "Lil' Tae" is considered a departure for JFJO, as it contains many electronic elements. The band recorded the rough tracks for "Lil' Tae", then asked friend of the band and electronic music producer Tae Meyulks to remix the tracks to his liking; hence the album title Lil' Tae Rides Again.
Following the album's release, JFJO took Meyulks' creations and transcribed them for live performance, performing the album in its entirety night after night during a spring 2008 tour. An official live version, Lil' Tae Rides Again / Live was compiled and edited by the band, combining performances from Portland, Denver, and Tulsa, and released as a digital download available through several online vendors.
During the 2008 tours, the quartet lineup shifted depending on the tour, and was either Haas/Raymer/Mathis/Tomshany or Haas/Raymer/Combs/Tomshany. The band performed high-profile shows at venues such as the JVC Jazz Festival in Newport, Rhode Island and Lincoln Center in NYC. In October 2008 the band returned to Europe as a trio (Haas/Mathis/Raymer). The tour brought great acclaim including a Guinness Jazz Award for Best New Band at the Cork Jazz Festival. This tour would prove to be the last full tour with founding member Mathis, who left to "pursue other musical endeavors." Two other trio shows were played on December 5 and 6. 2008 ended with a special New Year's Eve show in Tulsa, Oklahoma where the band played their own set as well as a 'superjam' set with members of Callupsie & The Doldrums featuring the music of Michael Jackson, Prince, and Lionel Richie.
2009 - 2013
In early 2009 it was announced that founding members Brian Haas and Reed Mathis would be amicably parting ways, and that Mathis would no longer be involved with JFJO. Negative rumors about the "split" have circulated in the media, but both Haas and Mathis have made an effort to clarify that the decision was mutual. In a March 2009 interview, Brian Haas explained it this way:
|“||"It's real simple stuff‚ obvious stuff. Reed [Mathis] and I didn't have any drama. We were just tired of being around each other and tired of playing with each other. Zero drama and zero discussions. He and I both had the same idea on the same day—he wasn't fired and he didn't leave. It was a mutual thing that we communicated to each other on the same day‚ and we never looked back."||”|
The lineup of Haas/Raymer/Hayes/Combs made its debut at the NYC Winter Jazz Festival on January 10, 2009 to a packed house at Kenny's Castaways in New York City.
In early 2009, Jacob Fred formed their own record label, named Kinnara Records. The name Kinnara was chosen due to the members' strong identification with Buddhist and Hindu ideals. The half-bird, half-woman goddess Kinnara is representative of beauty, grace and accomplishment, and translates to "heavenly music" in Sanskrit.
On July 17, 2009, JFJO announced a cluster of seven nights in which they would be opening for Phish bassist Mike Gordon. The tour is set to run through venues in the Midwest, New England, and Ontario.
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey were winners of the 8th annual Independent Music Awards Vox Pop vote for best New Age Album Lil' Tae Rides Again.
The first half of 2010 found JFJO touring both the West & East Coasts here in the States, as well as the entire month of March in Europe. In April the band announced that they were parting ways with bassist Matt Hayes and would be bringing on Kansas City resident Jeff Harshbarger as their new double bassist. Harshbarger made his JFJO premier on April 17 with two consecutive performances for Record Store Day and the release of the 7" vinyl single "The Sensation of Seeing Light".
After years of labor, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey’s reinterpretations of Beethoven’s 3rd & 6th Symphonies premiered in June 2010 as a project entitled ‘Ludwig’. The project, which rearranged Beethoven’s 3rd and 6th symphonies, was premiered alongside a 50 piece orchestra on June 12 as a headline performance at the OK Mozart Festival. Downbeat is calling ‘Ludwig’ “a tour de force of jazz melded with classical.”
JFJO’s reinterpretations channel the spirits of not only Beethoven & Karajan but Led Zeppelin & Radiohead as well. Haas was thrilled to be able to return to his classical roots and describes the project as “Ellington’s Far East Suite meets the Flaming Lips,” complete with intricate arrangements, in-the-moment improvisations, and big rock breakdowns.
The band also released their 20th album, Stay Gold, as CD & double vinyl on June 22. In support of the release the band toured with the new quartet lineup in June including dates at the Rochester International Jazz Festival and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. The band has further plans for touring in September and October 2010 stretching from New Orleans to Louisville to Seattle to LA.
The band's 21st album, The Race Riot Suite, was released on August 30, 2011. The project found the band reaching into the dark annals of its hometown’s history. Written, arranged and orchestrated by Chris Combs, the album is a long-form conceptual piece that tells the devastating story of the 1921 Tulsa race riot—a real estate-driven ethnocide occurring under the guise of citizen-dispensed justice. The oil-elite, civic government and local press colluded to take advantage of a racially tense climate in Jim Crow-era Oklahoma, resulting in the death of hundreds of black Tulsans and the destruction of an entire city district.
“The adventurous jazz band’s latest project pays tribute to Tulsa’s Greenwood community, destroyed in a 1921 race riot, while evoking the creative output of 1920s Oklahoma…the score captures the energy of Greenwood’s fervent churchgoers and the rollicking territory dance bands that crisscrossed the Southwest.” says the Los Angeles Times.
In addition to the permanent line-up of Combs (lap steel), Brian Haas (piano), Josh Raymer (drums) and Jeff Harshbarger (bass), the quartet enlisted the assistance of world class horn players Jeff Coffin (Bela Fleck, Dave Matthews Band), Steven Bernstein (Sex Mob, Levon Helm), Peter Apfelbaum (Hieroglyphics, Don Cherry), Mark Southerland (Snuff Jazz) and Matt Leland (a founding JFJO member). The Boston Globe says the Suite is “a beautifully orchestrated, melodically rich piece that celebrates Greenwood as much as it laments the wanton violence that destroyed the neighborhood”.
In Fall of 2012 The Race Riot Suite reached #1 on the CMJ Jazz chart. The North American album release tour included two nights at the Jazz Standard in NYC, the Boom Boom Room in San Francisco, the University of California San Diego, as well as performances at North Sea Jazz Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival, High Sierra Music Festival, & the Bear Creek Music Festival. Time Out New York says that “…the 12-part suite pinballs between majestic melodies, free improv and ragged New Orleans rhythms, sometimes all within the same song…expect a heavy dose of history, but an even heavier dose of forward-looking, down-home jazz.”
In Summer 2013, Brian Haas, Josh Raymer, and Chris Combs began performing as a trio; Haas effectively became the band's bassist, now using a Moog bass keyboard to his left atop the piano. During this time, the band reworked material dating back to 1994, and in November 2013 recorded the album Millions: Live in Denver at DazzleJazz in Denver, CO. This vinyl only endeavor enjoyed a sold out release for Record Store Day 2014. The band had a successful American tour in support of this record from March 19 to June 21 of 2014. JFJO's second release of 2014 and 26th album will come out in October with Royal Potato Family.
- Brian Haas - Acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, Moog Bass, Synths and Melodica (1994–present)
- Joshua Raymer - drums (2007–present)
- Chris Combs - Electric guitar, Lap steel guitar, Synths (2008–present)
- Jeff Harshbarger - Double bass, (2010–2013)
- Mark Southerland - Saxophone, homemade horns (2012–2013)
- Dove McHargue - Electric guitar, vocals (1994–2000)
- Kyle Wright - Trumpet (1994–2000)
- Matt Leland - Trombone, vocals (1994–1999)
- Rod Mackey - Tenor saxophone (1994–1995)
- Sean Layton - drums, percussion, vocals (1994–1999)
- Matthew Edwards - percussion (1994–1999), drum set (1999-2001)
- Richard Haas - drums (2001)
- Jason Smart - drums (2001–2007)
- Peter Tomshany - Electric guitar (2008)
- Reed Mathis - Fender jazz bass, double bass (1994-2007)
- Matt Hayes - Double bass, (2009–2010)
JFJO has released 25 albums in their 20 year history. The band has their own Sony/MRI/RED imprint, Kinnara Records, in partnership with Brooklyn based Royal Potato Family. JFJO frequently releases free audio recordings of live shows for download on their official website, www.jfjo.com.
|Millions: Live In Denver
|The Race Riot Suite: A.Solo Piano - B.Solo Piano Remixed
|The Race Riot Suite
|The Sensation of Seeing Light [7" vinyl single]
|One Day in Brooklyn [EP]
|Lil' Tae Rides Again: LIVE
|Lil' Tae Rides Again
|Rich Mahogany [EP]
|Tomorrow We'll Know Today: Live in USA and Europe
|The Sameness of Difference
|4 Improvisations For The Ghosts
|Walking With Giants
|Slow Breath, Silent Mind
|Telluride is Acoustic
|All Is One: Live in New York City
|Self Is Gone
|Live At Your Mama's House
|Sean Layton: A Musical Retrospective
|Live In Tokyo
|Live At The Lincoln Continental
- Henderson, Alex "Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey" at AllMusic. Retrieved February 2, 2007.
- Yanow, Scott, "Slow Breath, Silent Mind" review at AllMusic. Retrieved February 2, 2007.
- Hyena Records: Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey Accessed July 31, 2009
- 1320 Records Catalog: Lil' Tae Rides Again / Live Accessed August 01, 2009
- Mike McKinley Interviews Brian Haas for State of Mind Music, 30 March 2009 Accessed July 31, 2009
- Jennifer Chancellor, "Sanctuary sounds: Jacob Fred takes on Tulsa Race Riot at Church Studio", Tulsa World, February 20, 2011.