Last Saturday night I was one of the better jazz shows I’ve ever seen in my life, and last night I returned to that same club to play a show opening for One Way Station with my band NVO. How those two things are related is something I’ve been meaning to write about for a while now, and I’ll get to that later….but it’s fair to note that I’m biased in a way after having an experience of seeing amazing musicians on stage and then being able to play that same stage later that week. Call me a nerd, but it sort of enhances my whole takeaway from what I saw this past weekend after a short day for me at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Shit, I still need to post the photos and thoughts I had from that spectacular…I gotta get on that.
Related: It really is great to be a live music fan in the city of San Francisco. To have clubs like the Boom Boom Room hosting the next generation of jam-jazz heavyweights is a gift to all of us as much as Hardly Strictly Bluegrass remains the perennial gift from Warren Helman. And that Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey show last Saturday night served as a perfect capper on a weekend that hadn’t even finished up yet.
The fact that I’m declaring it one of the best jazz shows I’ve ever seen is not an opinion I came to easily, and my story of how I got around to really “liking” Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey follows a relatively funny trajectory that’s definitely worth sharing. Maybe I had seen them on some previous jamband DVD or some highlight from some festival that I had yet to attend, but I just wasn’t blown away. Maybe it was too jazzy for my tastes, even though their descriptive band name never scared me away and I tried to give it a chance.
Fast forward to earlier this year at my first night at Jazz Fest; I arrived just in time to make the Megalomaniac’s Ball at Howlin’ Wolf and I saw some of the better Marco Benevento Trio and Garage a Trois sets that I had ever witnessed (and that was only the first night). I’m standing outside joining my friends for some fresh air and we start talking about music, someone brings up Particle, and I may some snide comment about how they were actually really boring and I thought they sucked or something. I had seen Steve Molitz join a Phil & Friends lineup at Fort Mason and it only further fueled my unwillingness to feel out their music in the way that you’d need to feel it. I’m laughably jaded. Haha aren’t I funny.
Then this dude pops up out of nowhere and hands me a flier for a show and mentions that he knows Molitz and that he’s a good guy. I look down at the flier and notice that I’m holding a Jacob Fred Jazz Oydssey show list, and instantly I feel like a jackass for at least a good 5 to 27 minutes, something like that. Deer in the headlights moment in front of my whole crew; pretty hilarious for the whole lot of them…
So, I’m at High Sierra this year and I must have felt a certain guilt about my last encounter with Mr. Brian Haas, the keys behind JFJO, and when my friends made the trek over to the indoor stage area to see this new Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey presents The Race Riot Suite set, I knew I really couldn’t miss it. I’m glad I didn’t, because the music was so amazingly good I made sure to stop off to see their night time set in the Vaudeville Tent.
The Race Riot Suite tells the story of a racially charged riot in Tulsa back in 1921 that Chris Combs had researched and brought to the band as an idea for a concept album; this video belows tell a bit of the story and this was a bunch of the context that the band provided as they went through the album at High Sierra.
So at Boom Boom Room, the JFJO core was joined by Peter Apfelbaum, Mark Southerland and SF Jazz Mafia dude Adam Theis and they brought the suite to a crew of dancing folks ready to get down and groove. The vibe in the room would switch from somber style chilled out gypsy horn jazz that this band is so good at, but at times it had that frantic jazz freak out vibe best captured in the animated gifs below:
I can’t take away much more than let you all know that I was feeling this show. This is the type of music I want on while I’m cooking dinner and hosting friends, or perhaps when I’m slightly tipsy after a BBQ with all my good friends on a beautiful San Francisco “summer” night.