So, when's the last time you experienced Jacob Fred? Yeah, yeah, I know they were at The Cain's Ballroom back in May of 2005. You may have even hung out at the Riverwalk Crossing the night that Blue House Media was taping the show. But when was the last time your really experienced JFJO?
If you haven't skipped out of Tulsa to catch them in a little jazz club somewhere else, it's been a long time -- far too long. Heck, if you were late to jump on the Jazz Odyssey train, you may have never even gotten a proper dosage of Tulsa's hometown avant-jazz heroes. All that can change this weekend, however, if you're willing to step out, kick back and lock into their groove.
Yes, it's true. Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey is scaling down and getting back to its roots for two nights (January 19 and 20) at Tsunami Sushi.
Now, it's not like you haven't had a chance to catch Brian Haas and/or Reed Mathis around town over the past year. During down time between tours, Haas and Mathis have made the most of their time at home and plugged into the local music scene to play around town more often than they have in years.
According to the guys, they got to play around town, either separately or together, roughly 50 times last year.
"You know, that's just incredible for us" said Mathis. "It feels like 1995 all over again when we felt like a part of the Tulsa music scene. The last five years, when we've really committed to touring and we tried to take this thing global, it's almost like we stopped playing our hometown because when we would come home from the road we would just be tired and we wouldn't book local gigs. I mean, we'd play Cain's once a year or something, you know?"
"For the last six years" added Haas, "that's been our only big Tulsa show - Cain's once a year."
"Which is such a vibe," continued Mathis. "I mean, it's beautiful, but you're like, big stage, big room, high ticket price. And it's like 'Here's our SHOW!' But, going to Vintage 1740, setting up in the corner and just playing is a totally different mood -- and paradigm - so it really feels like a treat to me to get to do that again."
"Because that's how we used to play around town - it was casual, it was regular," Reed went on. "Like people, we see a lot of the same faces, a lot of new faces. It's just nice. It's not like doing a show, you know?
It feels more communal."
The real "wrinkle" to those shows, as the guys explained it, was that JFJO's drummer, Jason Smart, was at home in Cincinnati. That left Brian and Reed to play with a local rhythm section, and the two took advantage of a plethora of different drummers and percussionists. According to Haas, however, they mostly used Matt Edwards -- who was a founding member of the band - which probably added to the confusion as to who was actually in the band (along with venues occasionally listing the shows as "Jacob Fred Trio" or some other variation of the name).
Luckily for Tulsa, Hyena Records has picked up a third option on JFJO, and Jason Smart will be in town for 10 days of preparation and recording as the group starts laying the groundwork for a new album. The week will culminate in two nights of intimate shows at Tsunami with the real Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey.
The Real Jacob Fred Jazz Experience
After investing so much time and playing roughly 1,000 shows together over the past five years, the rapport with Smart is something that can't be recreated by someone else.
As Reed explained the coming shows, "All these folks have seen us, but they haven't really seen what we're doing on the road, so it's gong to be exciting."
What will really be thrilling for local jazz and Jacob Fred fans isn't just the chance to see the group in a smaller, more intimate setting, but also the opportunity to get a glimpse of what direction the band may go next.
As I discussed the band and the new record with Brian Haas, he admitted that they are all excited about the new album and what is in store. This time, the members of Jacob Fred are in control of the recording process and they are planning on taking the better part of this year to prepare, write and record the new album.
According to Haas, the group appears to be making a departure, musically, from anything they've done previously. At this point, he and Reed are both wound up and freaking out, as both have separately been up working into the wee hours of the morning on ideas for the new album.
"When it all comes out, you aren't going to be able to tell -- it's not even going to be a jazz record, per se," said Brian. "It's going to just be a music record. It really is. We're going to definitely have the 'Soft Bulletin' approach of just layers and layers and just mutations of beats and mutations of sounds."
Part of the band taking things in a different direction includes working with Brian Pryor of Tae Meyulks. During this album cycle Pryor will essentially be a fourth member of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, adding another layer to the JFJO sound with equal input to the creative process and plans to tour with the group in 2008.
Looking out to next year is getting ahead of things a bit, however. For now, the members of JFJO are looking forward to slowing down a little bit and enjoying the recording process.
This year, there won't be 250-275 shows as there have been in the past. Yes, there are a few plans in place for some strategic shows and a brief summer tour of Europe, but mostly it's time to, as Brain put it, "let some of our hard work catch up to us."
This weekend, Tulsa fans have an opportunity to catch up as well. The real Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey will be playing two nights at Tsunami Sushi (2nd and Detroit), Fri., Jan. 19 and Sat., Jan. 20. Doors will open at 8:30pm and Jeff Porter's Jungle Jamboree will open the shows at 9pm on both nights.
JFJO will follow at 10pm sharp and a few guests appearances have been planned with singers such as our own Annie Ellicott and Jans Ingber (from Boulder, CO), who Haas calls "the male Aretha Franklin". You can also expect a few other surprises as the boys get comfortable for the intimate hometown gigs.
Cover is only $5 at the door, but you'd better get there early to get a seat at the front of the classroom. Both nights will surely be at capacity as JFJO goes "old school" and gives downtown Tulsa its groove back.
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