Who is Jacob Fred? Presumably a name drawn from a telephone book. Clever concept, though — and if that were enough to carry the day, an enthusiastic thumbs up would be in order for the Jazz Odyssey’s Accurate recording, Welcome Home.
Alas, there is also the music to consider. Jacob Fred, a seven–member unit from Tulsa, Oklahoma, blends, it says, its “own brand of electric Jazz–funk–afro–hip hop.” That’s an undeniably Accurate description, as it was taken directly from a press release accompanying the disc. First, let us note that what these gentlemen do, they do quite well. In other words, they are accomplished musicians. Second, that the music they produce has an appeal to us that, on a scale of one to ten, barely nudges the meter. To its credit, Fred never turns its (his?) back on the basic musical components — melody, harmony, rhythm. On the other hand, the “blend” it produces is long on audience appeal and special effects, short on meaningful Jazz improvisation. But as this is the direction in which Jazz seems to be moving, Fred may well be on the cutting edge. While better than some ultra–modern alternatives we’ve heard, it’s still a long way from Bird or Trane (but closest perhaps to late–era Miles). There are times when the spirited group interplay reminds the listener of Jazz’s primal roots, sort of a “neo–Dixieland” groove, and one can envision worse choices than that. The Jazz Odyssey is almost certain to find a large and earnest following among today’s open–minded Jazz devotees, and we wish them well. Returning to the question of who is Jacob Fred, he may be a live flesh–and–blood person after all, as he is credited with having written the title selection (or is that another in–joke indicating a group endeavor?). Well, Jacob Fred or Fred Jacob, it matters little unless one warms to the trendy–hip music. We didn’t; others may.
Track listing: Seven Inch Six; Muskogee Smalls; MMW; Mountain Scream; Stomp; Welcome Home; Seventh Greenbelt; Road to Emmaus (53:20).