Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey

All Is One - Live In New York City

Knitting Factory Records, KFW 314

Brian Haas, melodica, rhodes, acoustic piano; Reed Mathis, bass; Jason Smart, drums; Chris Lovejoy, percussion; Chris Theberge, percussion

Brian Haas, Reed Mathis, and Jason Smart are fine instrumentalists. On their recording as the collective Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, All Is One - Live In New York City, Haas is a versatile and energetic keyboardist. His instruments all sound terrific and he employs them in complementary ways. His and bassist Mathis's symbiotic, timbral arsenals keep their ensemble ever-so-slightly out of the ordinary. Mathis has a barely unconventional but polished approach to the bass--using effects to allow his instrument to occupy the customarily higher pitched role of a lead instrument. It is difficult to appreciate the musical advantage of using this (or any) unorthodox approach to produce what amounts to a common overall sound. Smart is a very capable drum setist, but employs little variety or imagination. The music benefits from the two separate guest percussionists' nuanced and textured playing.

This group falls short by many different measuring sticks but here's the good news, often, it doesn't fall very short. The compositions are not strong enough--vamps, motifs, and simplistic chord progressions--and the members of the Odyssey are good, not exceptional improvisers. Their improvisations are conventional--solos with or without rhythm section, changing tempi for affect. The Odyssey's concentration may be on playing funky grooves more than improvising, but the grooves, delivered with conviction and command, are unremarkable in both concept and execution.

by Eric Roth

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