Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey at Bell's Brewery 4.7.11

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey wsg The Hue 4.7.11
Bell’s Eccentric Café- Kalamazoo, MI

Words & Photos By Greg Molitor (ReMIND Photography)

My draw to live music typically leans towards jam rock, the bread-and-butter of my existence. Every once in a while, though, a much-welcomed opportunity to diversify my travels comes along and beckons me to check out an event outside of the usual routine. April 7th, 2011, would not mark my first time seeing Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, but the prospect of something different had me stoked to venture into territories unknown. Ah, how I love a change of pace. Time to hit the road!

Four of my fellow Lansing friends and I arrived to Bell’s Eccentric Café around 9:30 P.M. to an almost empty venue, but the lack of an initial crowd couldn’t curb the joyousness I felt when I entered the room. For those who aren’t familiar, Bell’s has a new venue that was built within the past year. I say with the utmost confidence that this is hands-down THE BEST venue in the State of Michigan. Everything about the new layout is spectacular…the stage, the sound system, the atmosphere…I could go on and on about how excited I am to see talent roll through the city of Kalamazoo in the future, but for now, onto the music…

As my friends and I settled in, The Hue was in the midst of its opening set. The progressive four-piece from Chicago played an admirable, energetic set of originals, but the music didn’t do much for me. The music was filled with so many time changes and quick starts and stops that it was hard to stay focused on what the band was trying to accomplish during each tune. I love progressive rock, but there was something off about The Hue this evening.

The songs that were performed required an incredible amount of precise technicality to hit the many difficult changes throughout the tunes, and it just wasn’t happening during this set. The Hue’s output was enjoyable at times, but the group never constantly held down a tightness that allowed me to build emotion from any it had created earlier. I’ll be checking these guys out in the future as each member showed the individual talent required to play such demanding pieces. On this night, unfortunately, the collective couldn’t build enough momentum to keep me entertained.

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey hit the stage a half hour after The Hue finished, and its performance felt fresh and excited me as much as any great live show I’ve caught in 2011. JFJO played a continuous ninety-minute set that moved with a delicate forcefulness throughout its entirety. Ambient, noisy, funky, spacious…theses are all words that could fit into a description of a typical Odyssey that Fred leads one through. With that being said, it’s counterproductive to label this band as anything other than what it is. JFJO creates American music for humans, by humans, and that’s that.

Throughout the set, the band worked through tunes of its latest release, Stay Gold, as well as some unreleased material. Led by its sole original member Brian Haas (keyboards) and Chris Combs (lap steel), JFJO offered heartfelt improvisations with a playful attitude that I thoroughly enjoyed watching. As the previously mentioned duo traded improvised melodies and shared harmonies, bassist Jeff Harshbarger and drummer Josh Raymer created the groove which became even more locked in near the show’s end. The last few tunes of the set felt almost telepathic in nature as if the band couldn’t make a wrong turn if it tried…so impressive it was. The band finished at 12:00 A.M., and after the set’s conclusion, my group left Bell’s smiling and satisfied to our cores. What a performance by Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey!



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