anthony.deanharris[at]nextbop[dot]com / @retronius
The Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey have recorded 21 albums. Not a lot of groups have that kind of staying power. If they do, many of them may not have that kind of freshness. Yet this group, now consisting of Brian Haas on piano, Chris Combs on lap steel guitar, Jeff Harshbarger on upright bass and Josh Raymer on drums, are still the innovative force on the fringe of the jazz zeitgeist. Folks in the know look to this group for some of the most off the wall jazz filled to the brim with complexity but not with the kind of intellectual noodling that can turn off newcomers. They walk a precarious tightrope of ambitious material, all the while not losing their fans. The group’s new album Race Riot Suite follows that same model.
Written, arranged and orchestrated by Chris Combs, the album is a long form piece that tells the rarely noted narrative of the 1921 Tulsa race riots in which the oil-money fueled government and the press colluded in a land grab of a black district in Jim Crow-era Tulsa, Oklahoma, ultimately devastating the area. This dark chapter in Tulsa’s history isn’t very well known so it’s not only good for the sake of good music that this heralded collective tell this story but for the sake of keeping history alive instead of paving over the sordid, unpleasant past.
This project is big, so big the group added a horn section of Steven Bernstein on trumpet and slide trumpet, Peter Apfelbaum on tenor & baritone saxophone, Jeff Coffin on tenor saxophone, Mark Southerland on tenor saxophone and Matt Leland on trombone. It’s sprawling, but befitting of the story it tells. While it’s easy to pick out courageous, swinging tracks to prove how good it is, we’re glad to be able to let you hear Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey’s Race Riot Suite in its entirety before its August 30th release.