A place for jazz & metal ?(but generally, very little?jazz-blues). — ed.
Jazz Odyssey (no puppet show)
Each generation gotta have its own jazz. And not repackaged/reworked olde jazz to make a kid feel all historically k’nektid — thanks for the underwear, too, Mama — but new jazz, the way Diz, Miles and Trane were once new. The way Bird took off on Gershwin in the ’40s. That’s what Tulsa’s Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey are about: improvising on the music they grew up with, like Björk, the Flaming Lips and Jimi Hendrix. (The trio features no Jacob or Fred, and “Jazz Odyssey” was Spinal Tap’s wank-o-rama when the ’Tap needed a “change of direction,” so you know the J-Freds are not posing for a statue.)
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Odd how long it took for jazzers to update the database of “standards” — till the mid-’90s, when Cassandra Wilson started singing her childhood memories of Van Morrison and the Monkees. Odder how long it took for Brad Mehldau (1999), the Bad Plus (2000) and Judith Owen (2005) to pick up the flag and jazzify Radiohead, Nirvana and Deep Purple. (But the original prophet Cassandra didn’t get quick uptake from the Trojans, either.) Not so odd is the new jazz’s distance from bebop: about the same as the distance between “Last Train to Clarksville” and “My Funny Valentine.”
Pop melody has lost some lipstick in the last half-century, but harmony has really gotten a boot to the ’nads. The Jazz Odyssey’s new The Sameness of Difference is modern that way: The dudes like to improvise with rhythm and texture more than chords. Their cover of the Flaming Lips’ “The Spark That Bled,” a composition with some right weird layerings, comes off as the prettiest kind of diagram. To hear JFJO pianist Brian Haas’ bravura minimalism, you’d never know that Brian Wilson’s “Wonderful” was a ’60s vehicle for ingenious counterpoint, or that Hendrix’s “Have You Ever Been to Electric Ladyland” was a tour de force of sevenths, ninths and micro-intervals that haven’t even got names.
This is not a problem, unless you’re ready to declare that the anti-harmonic trend (from Ellington to Eurythmics to Eminem, for example) is pure evil. When writing their own tunes, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey take canny, sometimes dissonant runs at the classical and jazz traditions. When covering, though, they seem to feel that less space in our world demands more space in our music. And listening to the array of subtle high-low effects Reed Mathis draws from his electric bass guitar, and the joyfully spontaneous rattlings of drummer Jason Smart, you might tend to agree.?
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey plus The Dead Kenny G’s (JFJO pianist Brian Haas with sax wilder Skerik and drummer Mike Dillon) play the Palmer Room behind Cucina Paradiso Ristorante, 3387 Motor Ave., West L.A.; Wed., Feb. 15, 8:30 p.m.; $20.