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.