Come together: Reggaefest more about togetherness than music
BY THOMAS CONNER 06/28/1999
© Tulsa World
Whenever Tim Barraza speaks to me of Reggaefest — the annual summer festival he has organized in Tulsa for 14 years — the music is one of the last things he mentions.
First instead are the crafts, the games, the people-watching, the food and the general good feeling generated by hordes of people coming together for peaceful reasons. Barraza loves and promotes reggae music because it doesn't so much merit its own strict attention as it provides a soundtrack for such congregating. The idea is simple: The more people that get out of their houses, mingle with their fellow humans and have a great time, the happier they will be, and a small but vital blow will have been struck for world peace.
That seems to be the core reason why Barraza started Reggaefest back in 1985 — as a small street festival outside the nightclub he owned then at 18th and Boston. It's probably the reason the festival has grown so substantially over the years and why it has replicated itself in other cities throughout the southwest.
Last year, the Reggaefest idea had begun to show some wear. By then, it had grown to fill the River West Festival Park and had become less of a people's event and more of a Lollapalooza-influenced cluster-concert — three stages, vendors shoved out of reach and one clotted mass of people who could barely move and interact. The ever-impressive series of performers were singing about peace, love and understanding to an audience that pretty much stayed put and kept its eyes on the stage.
This year, there was new life in the Reggaefest ideal. This year, the two-day festival was back to its roots — in the street.
The real estate brokers are right: location is everything. Reggaefest '99 took place for the first time in the downtown Brady Arts District, and the new digs serve the festival's original purpose much better.
It was a funky village full of people to see and things to do. Booths selling sandals, shawls and shades lined Main Street. A full-fledged carnival — complete with games, rides, even a giant Ferris wheel — filled Main and Cameron streets. Vendors cooking everything from corn dogs to jerk chicken filled Brady Street with sumptuous smells; the restaurants and clubs along that street also were open, offering a cool (literally and figuratively) respite from the asphalt. In one intersection, the Lacy Park African Dance Ensemble along with the Living Arts drumming circle pounded the pavement with traditional dances and fierce riddims. Everywhere, men and women, black and white, young and old tapped their feet or nodded their heads to the music.
There was movement, mingling and mirth.
Oh yes, and music.
Saturday's line-up onstage was as diverse and internationally renowned as ever. The Mighty Diamonds sang three-part harmonies as breezy as the evening, namely their hit "Pass the Koutchie" (Musical Youth put it on the radio in 1982 as "Pass the Dutchie") and a song that fit the festival, singing, "We got to live some life before we go." Mighty Sparrow brought his droning calypso to the stage, pounding out incessant, indistinguishable rhythms and slowing down only for an hysterical soca ballad called "Don't Touch My President" — likely the most intelligent and hilarious lyric inspired by the Lewinsky fiasco ("We have real issues to address ... let's talk about police brutality / don't tell me about no Monica mess").
Sparrow covered all the bases, singing songs about swordfish and even quoting modern rock's Bloodhound Gang in his finale ("The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire"). Pato Banton closed the show with a lively set of traditional and earnest reggae, pausing a couple of times in his set to encourage people in the crowd to greet strangers around them.
See, Barraza is right. Even Banton admitted that love and peace and getting along is more important than the music. "That's why we have come here tonight in Tulsa," Banton said. The music is a bonus — Reggaefest is really about coming together and all the rest of that hokey stuff. Reggaefest in the Brady District makes that goal easier to fulfill than ever before. The crowd was significantly smaller this year, but Tulsa someday soon will get over its irrational fear of its own downtown and come together for street festivals like this. It truly is about more than good reggae music.
A Reggaefest on Brady? You better believe it.
BY THOMAS CONNER 06/25/1999
Reggaefest '99 hasn't changed much, really. The bill is
still packed with international world music stars, and the
peaceful vibe of easygoing summertime music is still as
strong. Barraza's just moving the party outside his club
"Reggaefest started as a street party, and this is a
chance to bring it back to to that feeling," Barraza said
Since launching Reggaefest in 1985 outside SRO's, the
festival has outgrown its original 18th Street and Boston
Avenue location. Reggaefest has carried on in Mohawk Park
and the River Parks Amphitheater. It's even replicated
itself into similar festivals in Pasadena, Calif., and
Barraza, though, has returned to the nightclub business.
Just last week, he opened The Bowery at Main and Brady
streets in the Brady District — and that's where Reggaefest
will be this weekend. Downtown, in the street.
"Reggaefest is more about seeing people and walking
around looking at cool stuff and listening to great music.
It's always been a street party at heart, even when it was
in the wilderness," Barraza said.
Barraza describes this year's event as a "teeming
marketplace" featuring arts and crafts, exotic food and a
full-fledged carnival including a petting zoo for kids.
The one-stage line-up for the festival follows.
Tickets for Reggaefest '99 are $15 per day or $22.50 for
a weekend pass, available at the gate or at any Tulsa-area
Git-N-Go store. Children under 10 are admitted free.
Reggaefest International, 749-4709.
Gates open at 5 p.m.
Local Hero plays at 6:30 p.m.
This group of Tulsa musicians has played every Tulsa
Reggaefest in every location. One of the most viable reggae
acts in the nation, Local Hero — led by Doc James, a
Rastafarian Gentle Ben — continues to stick close to home
and keep the reggae rooted in a city that really needs it.
Local Hero's latest CD is titled "Rebirth," from Third Street
The Mystic Revealers play at 8:30 p.m.
This Jamaica-based band is one of roots reggae's latest
torch-bearers, producing a subtly updated take on the music
that groups like Burning Spear have been churning out for a
quarter of a century. They understand better than most the
complex whole of reggae, and they don't concentrate on one
form of it, like dancehall. They're supporting their latest
album "Crossing the Atlantic."
Lee "Scratch" Perry with the Mad Professor and the
Robotics play at 10:30 p.m.
Some say he's a genius, others say he's crazy.
Everyone's correct. Perry is a towering figure in the world
of reggae music, a monolithic madman who has more than any
other artist helped shape the sound of dub and take reggae
to parts of the world it never would have reached. He's one
of the few reggae artists who sounds truly unique, and he's
got the individualist personality to match the singular
"I am the first scientist to mix the reggae and find out
what the reggae really is," he once said. He visits Tulsa's
Reggaefest as part of his Cities Too Hot Tour, which
beckons concertgoers with the slogan, "Burn down your
offices, sell your assets and come with me."
If Perry weren't enough, he's backed now by the Mad
Professor and his band, the Robotics. The Mad Professor is
a similarly unique reggae talent behind the boards; he's
leant his production skills to the likes of the Beastie
Boys, the Clash, Massive Attack and the Orb, to name a few.
The combination should be explosive.
Gates open at 2 p.m.
Hyacinth House plays at 2:30 p.m.
This on-again/off-again Tulsa collective take it easy on
stage and mix up every conceivable form of music into their
own heady brew — reggae, funk, rock and lots of Dead-ish
Native Roots plays at 4:30 p.m.
Albuquerque is not the climate you think of when you
think reggae, but Native Roots hold their own in the desert
quite well. Mixing reggae with a dollop of blues, this
Native American band marries the universal love of reggae
with a Native American respect for the earth.
The Mighty Diamonds play at 6:30 p.m.
The most consistent and long-running vocal trio in
Jamaican musical history, the Mighty Diamonds deliver an
achingly pure collective voice. Best known for reggae
classics like "Pass the Koutchie," "Country Living" and "The
Right Time," their arsenal is full of sharp songs and
The Mighty Sparrow plays at 8:30 p.m.
Francisco, aka the Mighty Sparrow, has been the ruling
king of calypso for more than 40 years. His first hit, "Jean
and Dinah," was covered by Harry Belafonte, but his jovial
singing style has been applied to more topical fare about
regional politics than those trademark calypso romantic
comedies. In the '90s, Eddy Grant's record label has been
reissuing many of his vintage records.
Pato Banton plays at 10:30 p.m.
Patrick Murray, aka Pato Banton, got his start in his
father's travelling DJ show. He captured his devloping
toasting skills on a single, "Hello Tosh, Go a Toshiba,"
which caught the ear of fellow Birmingham, England native
Ranking Roger, then building the successful group English
Beat. A duet with Roger followed, as did an appearance on
UB40's "Hip Hop Robot."
Soon he was on his own, debuting with a solo album that
featured Birmingham's Studio Two house band and an
appearance by the "Late Show's" Paul Schaffer. His comic
vocal characterizations won him his first notice, but soon
he devloped into a more streamlined pop-soul reggae artist.
His first American hit was a cover of the Police's "Spirits
in the Material World." His lively performances have won him
most of his sizeable following.
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
Dwight Twilley doesn't sit still. Even in his own home.
He's sitting cross-legged on his living room floor,
rocking back and forth, sucking Parliament cigarettes to
the filters. Sometimes he gets up and paces behind the
couch. He bites his nails like a new father outside the
He is a new father, really. His latest baby is being
born right here in this living room, on the stereo. It's
Twilley's new album — his first record of new songs since
We're in Twilley's living room in a nondescript house in
a midtown Tulsa neighborhood like any other. The dogs
frolic in a fenced yard out back. The neighborhood kids
loiter in the front yard, hoping to find one of the box
turtles that live underneath the property's massive,
signature oak tree. There are no fancy cars in the
driveway. Only the converted garage with no windows --
Twilley's recording studio — gives away anything unusual
about the house. No one would drive by and think this was
the home of a Top 40 pop star.
"It's only when I'm out mowing the lawn and looking dirty
and awful that somebody drives by and stops. 'Are you
Dwight Twilley? Can I get your autograph?' " he says.
That odd, windowless garage is where the entire new
album was recorded. It doesn't sound like a homemade
record, though. It sounds bigger and brighter than any
album released in his three-decade career. It sounds as if
he had a huge, major-label recording budget — or, as Twilley
is fond of putting it, "We tried to make this record sound
like we had a deli tray."
But there was no caterer, no staff of engineers, no
heady Los Angeles vibe intoxicating everyone in the
process. Just snacks in the kitchen across the breezeway,
Twilley's wife Jan Allison running the control board and
the laid-back comfort of Tulsa keeping the couple sane for
a change. In fact, the heady Tulsa vibe informed and
inspired practically every note, word and sound that went
into this new record — from the use of a recorded
thunderstorm and cicada chorus to lyrics such as, "I gave a
lot up for rock 'n' roll / I had a lover but I let her go
A quick scan around the living room reveals prints of
Twilley's paintings on the wall, a Bee Gees boxed set on
the stereo cabinet, Twilley himself jittering through his
nervous energy on the floor. At least he's still got the
energy, and at least he's home.
The new album will be on shelves Tuesday. It's called
All roads lead to Tulsa
It's 1970. Twilley and Phil Seymour have finally gotten
out of town. The two had met three years earlier at a
screening of "A Hard Day's Night" and discovered their
musical chemistry, as well as their desire to practice that
science far and away from Tulsa.
In a '58 Chevy, they head east to Memphis. Driving down
Union Avenue, they pass a storefront painted with the
moniker of Sun Records. "Hey, look, it's a record
company," Twilley says.
He and Seymour walk into Sun Records and talk to "some
guy named Phillips." They have no idea where they are — Sun
Records, the studio where Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis
and countless others were molded, talking to Sam Phillips,
the man responsible for their molding.
Phillips listens to the tape of songs by Twilley and
Seymour. He doesn't send them away. Instead, he sends them
to Tupelo, Miss., to see Ray Harris, who says, "Y'all sing
"We had no idea where we were, really. We thought Elvis
was a movie star and that the Beatles invented rock 'n'
roll. We heard this Elvis stuff and were saying, 'Hey, that
sounds like Ringo,' " Twilley says of the trip. "It made an
impression. That's what wound up setting us apart.
Everybody else thought the Beatles invented rock 'n' roll,
and we fused the two.
"Plus, when we came back, we didn't sing like (weenies)."
A few years later, after learning to blend the catchy
pop of the Beatles with the backbeats of classic rock 'n'
roll, Twilley and Seymour escape Tulsa again. This time
they go west, to Los Angeles. Once again, they start
shopping their tapes to record companies. "Leon
(Russell) had started Shelter by then, and that was the
last thing we wanted," Twilley says now. "We thought that was
the stupidest thing in the world. Every club in (Tulsa) had
someone singing like this — " and he launches into a wheezy,
whiny Leon Russell impression. "We drove 1,500 miles to get
away from that."
Still, during the pair's first week in L.A., someone
takes their tape to the Hollywood office of Russell's
Shelter Records. Within days, Twilley gets a call from
Russell's manager and label head Denny Cordell.
"I show up at the Shelter office and sit in the little
waiting room. The Shelter people are in listening to the
tape and apparently freaking out. Somebody said, 'They came
out here with a tape of 30 of these (songs)!' Denny walks
out and says, 'I've heard your tape. Here's how I feel
about it,' and drops a record contract in my lap. Then he
walks out, saying over his shoulder, 'You'd better get an
attorney.' That was it," Twilley said.
"Then they sent us back to Tulsa."
It's a chilly night early in 1975. Actually, it's early
in the morning, maybe 3 a.m. Twilley and Seymour are toying
around in the Church Studio (then owned by Russell) under
strict orders from Shelter Records to get to know the
studio and not — under any circumstances — record any songs.
Maybe it's the hour, maybe there are stimulants --
regardless, Twilley and Seymour buck the orders. Seymour
takes Twilley into the hallways and says, "Let's do it.
Let's record a hit. Right now." Building on a groove
Seymour had been tinkering with, and handing guitarist Bill
Pitcock IV the riffing opportunity of his life, the Dwight
Twilley Band records "I'm on Fire."
The Shelter people will be annoyed — until they hear it.
The single will be rushed out. By June it will hit No. 16
on the charts and stick in the Top 40 for eight weeks. For
the next 10 years, Twilley's career will ride a
roller-coaster of fame and frustration, scoring another Top
10 hit in 1984 with "Girls" and settling him into life in
The prodigal star
Fast-forward to November 1996. I'm at Caz's in the Brady
District, checking out the latest band to be graced by Bill
Padgett's thundering drums, a now-defunct act called Buick
MacKane. The singer, Brandon McGovern, moved from Memphis
to Tulsa just to be near Phil Seymour, who had died from
cancer a few years earlier. The influence rings in every
sweetened, Beatlesque chord.
Buick MacKane is the opener tonight. The main act is
Dwight Twilley. Most in the audience remember Dwight, after
all, he had some hits. Those still new to the Tulsa scene
probably don't realize he was a Tulsan, much less that he's
back in town. But the crowd is willing
to give his set a listen.
When Twilley walkes into the bar — feathered hair,
sloganeering buttons on his lapel — he turns heads not with
the ghosts of his good looks but with an intangible aura of
a superstar. His set on the floor of this tiny shotgun bar
was bigger and stronger than any other local show in recent
memory, and the songs were gorgeous, crystalline, catchy as
hell. What on earth was he doing back here?
"After the earthquake ('94, in California), the insurance
people said we'd have to move out of the house to fix it
and then move back in," said Twilley's wife, Jan Allison.
"Dwight looked at me and started singing, 'Take me back to
Tulsa . . .'"
Weary of the literal and figurative shake, rattle and
roll of the L.A. lifestyle, Twilley and Allison moved back
in '94. Twilley wasn't retiring. In fact, quite the
contrary — he planned to finally record a new album right
"But with fax machines and Fed-Ex, you don't need to live
in the big business centers anymore," Twilley said.
"I wanted to come home."
'I'm Back Again'
Before Twilley and Allison premiere the new record,
Twilley shows off his home studio. It's a masterfully
rehabilitated garage, an immaculate studio and a small drum
room; set into the door between them is a porthole from the
Church Studio. He points out a few pieces of equipment used
in the recording, and talks about how many favors he cashed
in to lure old Dwight Twilley cronies out to play on yet
another record — original guitarist Bill Pitcock, noted
local axmen Pat Savage and Tom Hanford, original Dwight
Twilley Band drummer Jerry Naifeh, Nashville Rebels bassist
Dave White and drummer Bill Padgett, among others.
"I used up every favor, burned every bridge. There's guys
who won't return my calls anymore," Twilley says.
But he doesn't seem to regret the effort. He's very
proud of the results and is quite sure that his moving back
to Tulsa was a great career move.
"This record wouldn't have been possible without the
incredible musicianship in this town," he says. "I've always
said that Tulsa musicians are the best in the world because
they have to work so damn hard, harder than anywhere else.
That was part of why I moved back. I wanted a band of Tulsa
musicians again . . . and I feel a real sense of
accomplishment that I've made a new Dwight Twilley record
here in Tulsa."
"Tulsa" will be released Tuesday by a Texas-based
independent label, Copper Records. It's the first new
Twilley record to hit shelves in 13 years, the first
recorded in Tulsa in two decades. A CD collection of
rarities and outtakes will follow later in the summer from
a different label. A new Twilley single — 7-inch vinyl, no
less — is the current best-seller for a French indie.
Twilley classics have popped up on every "power pop"
collection worth its salt in the last three years.
Twilley just doesn't sit still — especially when he's
Between the cracks
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
Twilley's latest salvo includes not one but two new CDs.
In addition to the album of new songs, "Tulsa," Twilley soon
will release a CD called "Between the Cracks, Vol. 1." It's a
collection of rarities, demos and outtakes from the early
'70s to the present.
Twilley is an extensive archivist of his personal
exploits, and he's saved nearly everything he's recorded on
his own and with the Dwight Twilley Band. "Between the
Cracks" features several gems from this collection,
including several tracks from "The Luck" album, which was
never released. There's also a demo of a song from about
1973 featuring just Twilley and a piano.
"Between the Cracks" will be released by Not Lame Records
For more information on Twilley recordings, look to his
website at http://members.aol.com/Twillex.
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
I started my musical explorations thinking Al Jarreau
was a great jazz singer, and there was a time in my life, I
confess, when I assumed Thelonious Monk must have been a
religious philosopher. Two things turned me around to the
Way of Things: I heard my first Charles Mingus record, and
I saw the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey live at Eclipse. Then, I
Mingus is long gone, but the Jacob Fred boys are very
much alive. In fact, never have I seen a band that is more
alive — growing, breathing, reacting, adapting, affecting
the world around it. No longer establishing themselves as
well-trained hot-shots (the first album, "Live at the
Lincoln Continental") or attempting to obliterate the
restraints of that training (the second album, "Live in
Tokyo"), this third recording — the band's national debut --
finally lives up to the band's name. This is a musical
experience that's not just a little escapist vacation, it's
an odyssey — an intrepid voyage through unfamiliar
territory, a hike through strange and exciting sounds,
chords and free-thinking.
It's another live album, too, as all Jacob Fred CDs have
been. The band tried to record a studio record, but it
couldn't be done. Local knob-twiddler and punk veteran
Martin Halstead was certainly up to the task, but the mojo
wasn't working. The unpredictable nature of Jacob Fred's
collective improvisations is something that can't be easily
pinned down in a studio, and Halstead has called the studio
work, with no malice, the "sessions from hell." Two tracks on
"Welcome Home" survive from those hellish hours: "Stomp," a
quaint homage to the garbage can-weilding stage dancers,
sung by drummer Sean Layton in his best Leon Redbone drawl,
and "Road to Emmaus," a moving ballad written and led by
trumpeter Kyle Wright.
Closing this album with a reference
to Christ's rising from the dead and chatting with two guys
who didn't recognize his glory is somehow ironic coming
from a band of immensely talented musicians who've been
killing themselves for five years in Tulsa's tough local
scene in hopes of ascending to their rightful place in the
musical pantheon. (Wright has also written a 20-page piece
based on the Creation. Hadyn, shmadyn.) The seven
sermons leading up to the righteous postlude are soulful,
All but the two studio tracks were captured in two
performances at Tulsa's Club One, and they show a band that
has grown into its own not by emulating anyone but by
focusing intently on each player's gifts. The normal
pattern for a jazz song is to lay down the riff, then let
each player take turns soloing. In songs like "Seven Inch
Six" and "MMW," Jacob Fred lays down the riff with horns, but
instead of jumping right into the ego-feeding solos, they
slowly and carefully build a song, wrapping some of Brian
Haas' unusually tempered and dreamy keyboards and Reed
Mathis' loping bass around before opening the floor to
And guitarist Dove McHargue is definitely a
hot-shot, bending the strings during "MMW" with such strength
and control he almost makes the thing talk. For evidence of
the band's peaking compositional brilliance, look to both
"Mountain Scream," a carefully constructed atmospheric
joyride that winds up a breezy Latin dance, and the title
track, an on-the-spot completely improvised song that
sounds like a carefully written and labored-over gem.
Controlled chaos is this band's specialty, and that, I know
now, is jazz. Real jazz. Amen.
BY THOMAS CONNER
© Tulsa World
A couple of weekends ago, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey played
a handful of Tulsa gigs in which they barely included any
of the songs on their new album, "Welcome Home," released
"We did three sets of all new material except two from
'Welcome Home,' " said keyboardist Brian Haas. "We've just
got that much new stuff. It just keeps coming."
That kind of spirit and production rate after five hard
years together as Tulsa's most unique jazz-funk fusion band
is what impressed Russ Gershon to sign the Jacob Fred Jazz
Odyssey to his independent record label.
"It boggles my mind that this group has held together,
playing mainly with each other and evolving as a group as
opposed to going off to the big city and playing with hot
shots," said Gershon, head of Massachusetts-based Accurate
Records. "These guys stuck together and pulled it up to a
really high level without losing a sense of fun."
The seven members of Jacob Fred started sending tapes of their
music to Accurate about four years ago. The first Medeski,
Martin and Wood album — a band to whom Jacob Fred is
frequently compared — was released on Accurate, so that
seemed like a logical place to start. Gershon has his own
innovative band called the Either Orchestra, and he picked
up on the band's outstanding sound.
"It was just odd enough," Gershon said of hearing Jacob
Fred's first self-produced CD, "Live at the Lincoln
Continental." "Of all the tapes that are sent to me, I
listened to this one. I liked it. It had great energy. I
called them back — or maybe Brian called me — and they sent
me another one. It was even better. We talked about what
was next for them, and I said I'd put the next one out."
As a musician himself, Gershon said he appreciates the
band's efforts to keep jazz interesting and dangerous.
"They have such a sense of abandon, which is very
important these days," Gershon said. "You hear a lot of
jazz-funk that's trying to sound tight and just sounds dry.
These guys are loose as free improvisors. They have fun
when they're playing. There's a lot of music where people
are too damn serious — not about their efforts but their
message. These guys' message is that you can be a serious
player and still have fun. In fact, it's better to have fun
because that's the only way a musician can survive. Having
fun doesn't mean you have to be sloppy musician. Jacob Fred
has a looseness I associate with my early Miles Davis
"Welcome Home" hit shelves across the country on Tuesday.
Accurate's other credits include the first Morphine
album, as well as six CDs for the Either Orchestra.
Jacob Fred plays a show Thursday at Club One to
celebrate the CD release. Earlier reports noted a cover
charge for the show, but admission will be free.
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
When: 9 p.m. Thursday
Where: Club One, 3200 Riverside Drive in the Place One
Tickets: No cover charge
BY THOMAS CONNER
© Tulsa World
There's an element of jazz — real jazz — that's rarely
discussed at charity benefit galas and music company board
meetings. You won't hear it in much of the music
masquerading as jazz — not lounge, not swing, certainly not
You might only have heard the term applied to rock 'n'
roll — the droning, sitar-drenched stuff from the late '60s.
But while psychedelic rock 'n' roll tried to blast open the
doors of perception, inventive and free jazz tries to
create its own keys. Creative bandleaders such as Charles
Mingus and Thelonious Monk, as well as sonic pioneers from
Ornette Coleman to Cecil Taylor, pushed the boundaries of
music back to expose new ways of producing and perceiving
the music, new vistas of expression, undiscovered
countries. More dopey-eyed people said, "Wow, man," at a
righteous Mingus performance than any Captain Beefheart
The music of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey is an excellent
reminder of this. Built on firm foundations of traditional
jazz, funk and even rock, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey often
bounds off on enthralling collective improvisations, and
the result is often very "Wow, man."
"Jazz has always been psychedelic," said Brian Haas, the
band's own Master of Space of Time behind the Fender Rhodes
"Psychedelic — that is, activating the psyche, dealing
with the intangible instead of the tangible," added Reed
Mathis, Jacob Fred's bass player.
Besides being a seven-piece group of well-trained
musicians, mostly from the esteemed jazz program at the
University of Tulsa, Jacob Fred's music often receives more
comparisons to fringe rockers than the jazz artists in
which the band's innovative creations are so rooted.
"Even more than Medeski, Martin and Wood, the comparison
we hear most is Frank Zappa," said trombone player Matt
Leland, son of local keyboard wiz Mike Leland. "Mostly that
means they're saying, 'Whoa, that's really out there.'
Zappa's probably the only really crazy music they've ever
More exploratory listeners will have the chance this
week to hear Jacob Fred's brand of crazy music. The
Tulsa-based tribe releases its third CD, "Welcome Home," via
a Massachusetts-based independent record label, Accurate
Records. The label distributes its records nationally
through the Warner Bros. Records network, meaning "Welcome
Home" should be available at any record outlet
"Welcome Home" is the band's third full-length disc. The
first two, with the cheeky titles "Live at the Lincoln
Continental" and "Live in Tokyo," were recorded live at the
Eclipse and Club One in Tulsa. For the third outing, the
members of Jacob Fred set out to record their first-ever
That's not what they ended up with.
The reason is simply stated. "It sounded like poopy," said
guitarist Dove McHargue.
The band spent several months in a studio with local
producer and punk rocker Martin Halstead (N.O.T.A.),
slaving over a hot mixer and trying to pin down the
explosive — and often psychedelic — Jacob Fred chemistry.
Only rarely did the results live up to the band's standards
and expectations, so the bulk of the recordings were
scrapped. "Welcome Home" features two studio tracks, a
righteous ballad called "Road to Emmaus" and a talkie
courtesy of drummer Sean Layton's affected drawl, "Stomp";
the other six instrumentals were captured once again at
Tulsa's Club One.
"It was necessary that we do this," Mathis said of the
studio experience. "We learned many of our strengths and
weaknesses. The things we are familiar with as mainly a
live band simply weren't there in the studio ... It was
getting ridiculous doing 11 takes of one tune. We set up
for two nights in the club and had a finished album."
"It's much easier to present this music when you're
thinking about the audience and not about your own critical
ears," said trumpeter Kyle Wright.
"It's just not time for us in the studio yet," Mathis
When will it be time for a Jacob Fred studio record?
"When we can find a studio that can hold 500 patient
people," McHargue said.
So, for now, the third Jacob Fred CD is another snapshot
of the band's carefully reckless evolution.
JFJO, Not MMW, OK?
After this week's two Tulsa CD release parties, Jacob
Fred again will take to the road for a tour stretching from
Boston to Los Angeles. The word is out ahead of them, too.
This month's Down Beat magazine — the cornerstone news
source for jazz — sports a feature article on the band.
That article's chief comparison of the band is not, of
course, Zappa. It's Medeski, Martin and Wood, a more
revisionist acid-jazz organ trio that also debuted itself
to the nation via Accurate Records. Jacob Fred members
maintain that the only thing they have in common with MMW
is a spirit of innovation.
"It's the things MMW and us avoid that groups us
together," Mathis said. "It's not what we have in common,
really. The thing we really have in common is that we're
both unclassifiable bands."
"MMW," a song on "Welcome Home," makes light of the
perceived link. In this case, the MMW marks the order of
solos in the song: McHargue, Mathis and Wright.
On tour, the band proudly carries the banner for Tulsa
music. Or is that Texas? There's a goofy story behind the
new album's name. Mathis explained: "We went to Chicago, and
the paper mentioned us, saying, 'avant-garde sounds from
Texas.' The next week in Austin, they'd somehow picked up
on that, and a flier for our show said they were welcoming
Haas continued, "So in the show we said, 'It's great to
back. This next song is called "Welcome Home."' And Kyle went
into an improv thing."
"So now anytime we make up a song on stage — total
improvisation — we call it 'Welcome Home,'" Mathis said.
Celebrating its new and nationally released CD, "Welcome
Home" on Accurate Records, Tulsa's own Jacob Fred Jazz
Odyssey has scheduled two shows this week for its hometown
friends. Fans of all ages can catch the band's unique
funk-jazz at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Living Arts of Tulsa, 19 E.
Brady. Admission is $5 ($3 for Living Arts members) at the
door. The second show — 21 and over — kicks off at 9 p.m.
Thursday where most of the new CD was recorded: Club One,
3200 Riverside Drive It's $5 at the door, too.
These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.