It wasn't quite Homer's Odyssey in Collinsville, CT Friday night. Instead, it was much more of the Jacob Fred variant. Equally impressive, but from a whole different world. The four piece experimental and ever-progressive jazz group Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey returned to the small town and battled the rain to play an intimate outdoor show at the Downright Music and Art on the same important night that the group announced that they would be opening a handful of shows this fall for Mike Gordon, bassist of the legendary jam band Phish.
The group blistered through what was an intense two and a half hour set of original favorites and interpreted covers set to the JFJO tune. All the while the band rips out elongated jam sessions which gives them a sound unheard of on any of their studio albums. For as impressive as their recorded material is, their sound and style live is unbeatable, an energetic force most artists wouldn't come close to matching. You have those that play tracks as they sound in studio, and you have those that do one better. JFJO is certainly an example of the latter.
Keyboardist Brian Haas proves time and time again that his playing is of the first class nature. Sometimes playing with so much ferocity and energy that he shakes the very base of the keyboard he's forcing his feeling into, he leaves nothing to be desired. At age 35, Haas is the veteran of the band, but he plays right along with the energy of his younger bandmates.
The rhythm is kept steady by Josh Raymer on drums and Matt Hayes on the double bass, two enthusiastic players who impress right away with their seemingly natural ability. Chris Combs fills in the hole with the eerie sounds of the lap steel. Combs picked up his electric guitar for only a few song, including the encore "Santiago", a personal favorite of mine.
An assortment of songs were heard throughout the night, including a cover of the late Michael Jackson's "Thriller", which was one of the most crowd-pleasing choices of the night. It did seem as though by the end of every selection from the group the crowd was growing more and more into what was happening in front of them. As those strange, hooking and mind-blowing songs heated up, so did the free-spirited and drawn in crowd, some simply swaying with the grooves and others dancing the night away. Electricity seen in the faces of all four band members was channeled by the crowd.
Another most impressive moment of the night was the groups ode to Dr. Dre and Beethoven with their song "Drethoven", which is to be featured on their upcoming EP due out September 1st, One Day in Brooklyn. The track begins with Haas blowing on his melodica, a sort of mini keyboard reed instrument. Dr. Dre and Beethoven might sound like a strange mix, and it is, but JFJO makes it seem beautiful and just right with their limitless view.
When the crowd doesn't want you to leave the stage, it usually means you've done your job. The rather brand new quartet of Haas, Combs, Raymer and Hayes delivered yet another face-melting and inspiring performance, worthy of more attention. I guess that's what the group will get when they take the stage prior to Mike Gordon in the coming months.
A big thanks to the user cleantones on Youtube took some amazing footage from the show of the track "Goodnight Ollie", which is off the band's 2008 record Lil Tae Rides Again. Check it out embedded below to find out what you missed, or click the video to head straight to Youtube.
Also, if you're interested more in Brian Haas and JFJO, be sure to read the interview I was able to do with him back in April on The Recorder Online.