With Lil' Tae Rides Again, their first studio album since The Sameness Of Difference (Hyena Records, 2005), the mercurially inclined Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey have taken their biggest step so far into the unknown, re-inventing themselves in the process, at least for this project. The band gave unfettered creative control of the finished disc to their Tulsa neighbor, producer and electronicist Tae Meyulks, allowing him to deconstruct and reassemble the raw tracks as the spirit took him.
The result is an album that takes JFJO out of The Bad Plus/Medeski Martin & Wood territory that was their most recent approximate stamping ground, into an area that owes as much to electronica and ambient music, and which echoes to the sound of tinkling bells and glockenspiels. Lil' Tae Rides Again rocks, chugs and boogiesbuffed and burnished by Meyulks' mellifluous post-productionbut it also trips the light fantastic like the band has never done before.
The album, recorded in 2007, was made during something of a live performance hiatus for JFJO, and following a change in personnel. The trio made only a handful of appearances during the year and, those aside, pianist Brian Haas virtually disappeared from view. Bassist Reed Mathis, by contrast, was prolific, his several one-offs including keyboard player Marco Benevento's outstanding Invisible Baby (Hyena Records, 2008). During 2007, Haas and Mathis parted company with longtime drummer Jason Smart, who was replaced by Josh Raymer.
It sounds like Meyulks had a lot of fun assembling the album. It was recorded and mixed in an atmosphere-laden 100-year old Tulsa warehouse, and Meyulkswho we're told has a fascination with the psychedelic effects of sleep deprivationwould stay up for days at a time in a various "altered states," absorbing the cavernous space's rich paranormal resonances and sculpting the tracks.
Listeners not averse to some paranormal action in the privacy of their own living rooms will have plenty of fun too. At under 39 minutes, the album is admirably self-disciplined, and the first ten tracks have an average playing time of about three minutes. The only extended track is Haas' closing "Goodnight Ollie," a seven minute post-psychedelic romp, and the rawest piece on the disc. The finished music is effectively a suite, in which JFJO's minimalist tunes and solid grooves are twisted, cut up, turned on their heads, and morphed in and out of dreamlike soundscapes of considerable charm. It is JFJO, Jim, but not as we've previously known it.
Personnel: Brian Haas: piano, keyboards; Reed Mathis: electric bass, acoustic guitar; Josh Raymer: drums; Bill Mathis: handbells; uncredited: tuned percussion, melodica.