Day Well Spent
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
One Day in Brooklyn
With One Day In Brooklyn, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey simultaneously closes the door on one chapter of its journey and opens the next. A change of labels, a change in personnel and a change in direction: all of these have occurred for the band during the past 18 months. Such is the world of Jacob Fred. Sometimes in order to move valiantly forward, however, you feel the need to also give a nod to the past, and that's what the jazz outfit's latest EP feels like--a distinct transition point.
That's not to say One Day in Brooklyn is lacking in one way or another. In fact, it's incredibly well rounded and seems the most logical stepping stone at this point. Even as Brian Haas and company interpret a few other artists in their own, undeniably Jacob Fred way, it's the group's original compositions that truly stand out on the EP.
No longer the sextet that we saw on the Lil' Tae tour, the group is now pared back to a quartet. Reed Mathis has taken leave and Haas and drummer Josh Raymer are now accompanied by Chris Combs on lap steel and Matt Hayes on double bass. On the one hand, it takes both to fill the void, with Hayes handling the more straight-forward bass lines and Combs replacing Mathis' liquid smooth octave-pedaled wanderings. On the other hand, however, the pair is able to cover more ground and explore Jacob Fred's palette of sound more thoroughly.
Opening track, "The Black & Crazy Blues/A Laugh for Rory (For Joel Dorn)," is an obvious nod to the band's days with Hyena Records and a tribute the man that put his weight behind the band before his passing in late 2007.
Elsewhere, an elegant take on Lennon and McCartney's "Julia" extends the vibe of 2005's Sameness of Difference release and "Four in One" pays respect to Thelonious Monk and hints at the band's more clear-cut jazz impulses. These aren't the true highlights of the disc, however.
In what is perhaps a better indication of what's to come, the quartet interprets Abdullah Ibraham's "Imam" in entrancing form, highlighting each player while riding on the strength of Raymer and Hayes' rhythmic groove. As strong as this latest interpretation is, it only serves as a jumping off point for the group's latest original pieces.
While "Country Girl" and "Drethoven" thematically go different directions and take their cues from diverse sources, they are also incredibly complementary. Haas has said that "Country Girl" draws inspiration from the Tulsa sound and Combs' lap steel plays a decisive role in its direction. On the opposite end of the spectrum, "Drethoven" openly builds off of the band's unreleased modern interpretations of classical standards. Even so, the two are tied seamlessly by Haas' tasteful piano work.
When combined with Haas' arrangement of "Imam," the trio of compositions promises an exciting new chapter in the Jacob Fred story. If this is an indication of where we're going, I'll happily spend One Day in Brooklyn -- and buy a ticket for the next journey in advance. -- Gary Hizer
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