Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey 'Battle For Earth'
Words By J. Picard
Alone in a basement on Colfax Avenue in Denver, I read the accompanying comic for Jacob Fred's Battle For Earth. It's easily one of the weirdest things that I have ever read start to finish without actually putting it down. I was fortunate enough to be at the album's recording shows at Dazzle Jazz a mere year prior, so when it came to Battle For Earth's soundtrack, I knew exactly what to expect. The comic book though was an absolute treat of nonsense. For the sake of not spoiling the story line, this review will focus on the music, outside of a mention of an elk putting a crystal to its third eye and the band riding their spirit animals into space. The album starts with the selection "Better Living Through Competitive Spirituality," setting the tone for space through jazz. The trio's output conjures up thoughts of bands like Medeski, Martin & Wood, Snarky Puppy and even Herbie Hancock at times. "Hey Hey NSA" pushes the tension to a ten while the ascending line jumps in and out of pure instrumental madness. "Tetherball Triumph," brings the vibe back down to earth for sweet intertwining riffs that sound like the theme to a digital dream. The sound of the melodica from Brian Haas and airy guitar from Chris Combs spiral around a tight beat from Josh Raymer on drums before the piano and synth take it to an abrupt close.
"Let Yourself Out" offers a menacing beginning that results in effect laden lap steel work with building drums and piano. The full sound of the music leaves questions unanswered as to how a trio could output so much with so few players to cover the insanity and notation. The climax of the track offers a horrifying glimpse into outer space and frontiers unknown. "Betamax" offers interplay between all three members that reflect the tight nature and achieved chemistry through time served in the current incarnation of Jacob Fred. The guitar soars over the bass synth covering as much space as possible in the open staff of uncharted territory. "The Finder's Keeper" leans towards the avant-guarde before sorting out it's melancholy groove. Things escalate quickly and a sort of musical chaos ensues before resolving and repeating. "Appropriation Song" wastes no time in building and instead starts heavy and disjointed. The trio finds its direction and gets comfortable, reaching into the pocket before the synth takes over in mind-bending fashion and the floor drops out, leaving the listener floating and grasping at uncomfortable notes.
"Say Nothing" continues in a similar direction until the song's midsection when Brian shines with a sort of saloon style piano part that fades back into Jacob Fred's signature sound. A start stop flutter kicks off "New Bird," an ambient track that dips in and out of a variety of scattered influences resulting in jazz madness as often Jacob Fred tracks do. "Bounce," a fittingly named track, provides the bass and drums to move the listener in a sultry fashion. At times the next move makes sense, while others pull in a unconceived direction of spontaneity and surprise. The adventure closes with heavy hitter, "The Montage," the longest composition on the album, and feels the most in-depth and orchestrated throughout it's beautiful execution. It's a masterful close to an incredibly exploratory live album. Join us at The 1up - Colfax in Denver, CO on October 23 & 24 for Jacob Fred + Skerik "Battle For Earth" with Bill Smith (Friday) and Emily Clark & The Passing Fancy (Saturday)! Tickets are available at www.the-1up.com/listing!