After Tulsa’s own Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey rang in the New Year with an explosive show alongside The Doldrums and Callupsie at the Blank Slate, the band hit the road for a tour that spanned the entire country.
JFJO’s first stop at the Winter Jazz Festival in early January marked its first performance as a quartet, the latest incarnation. Shortly thereafter, the band released Winterwood online to fans for free, a studio album produced by former member Reed Mathis and JFJO.
Next, mastermind and keyboard extraordinaire Brian Haas released Petting Sounds, an improvised symphony for solo piano that he recorded in one continuous session, also for free. According to Haas, giving away the albums was one of the smartest business moves he’d ever made. In just three short months, JFJO’s international email list tripled, from 5,500 to 17,000; and in turn, digital download sales have skyrocketed.
“It blew a lot of doors open for us; it definite increased our fanbase really, really quickly,” he said. At the time, JFJO had six month’s worth of shows booked from coast to coast, and the timing of the albums’ release was key.
“We also put it out so that we would be touring in support of something, so that we would have something that we were trying to showcase,” said Haas. Indeed, JFJO has copious new material to share with fans, due in large part to the recent addition of lap steel guitarist Chris Combs and upright bassist Matt Hayes; drummer Josh Raymer joined JFJO two years ago. The band’s membership has always been fluid, fluctuating anywhere between eight and three people since its inception 15 years ago; this has allowed JFJO’s sound to evolve while reflecting a variety of genres.
Currently, though, JFJO draws much inspiration from T-Town’s finest. “It’s a true Tulsa sound; it’s influenced by Leon Russell, J.J. Cale and a whole different side of Tulsa music than we’ve normally be influenced by,” Haas explained. “For years, some of the music we were most influenced by was Tulsa’s early ‘90s punk rock scene; and this new band is more influenced by Tulsa’s early 70s psychedelic country scene.” And while Haas’ keys have defined the band’s sound during the years, Combs and his instrument have moved into the forefront.
“I’ve always been able to play the loudest. Now there’s someone who’s playing with so much beauty and so much taste and so much intelligence, there’s no reason for me to not support it. It is absolutely my greatest honor and pleasure,” Haas said. With its sweet, lilting tone, Combs’ musicianship has dampened the group’s delightfully cacophonous personality.
“Chris has actually freed me up to express myself in a deeper way; he’s freed me up to explore my more tender side,” Haas admitted.
And after four months on the road, the band has “coalesced” beautifully. “We’re super excited to bring it back home to Tulsa after having played so much. The band is so well-oiled, and it’s just crushing,” said Haas.
Advanced (and cheaper!) tickets to Saturday’s 18+ show can be purchased at Starship Records, 13th and Lewis, or through ticketstorm.com.
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