In January 2009 Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey premiered its current quartet configuration (piano/drums/lap steel/upright bass) at the New York Winter Jazz Fest. After recording in Brooklyn in April of ’09 the band released released the EP ‘One Day in Brooklyn’ in September. The EP marked the debut of the new quartet lineup in the studio setting as well as the first release on JFJO’s new record label, Kinnara Records, which is exclusively distributed in partnership with the Royal Potato Family by MRI/RED. The new quartet lineup, album, and tour have received rave reviews from Billboard and Downbeat to the New York Times and the LA Weekly.
With the addition of Combs on lap steel and Jeff Harshbarger on upright bass, JFJO has perhaps invented its own genre: Red Dirt Jazz. This new sound is equal parts earthy and nimble, pastoral and sweeping, elegant and rollicking. JFJO is tapping into their birthright, drawing upon “The Tulsa Sound” born of hometown heroes like Bob Wills, JJ Cale, and Leon Russell. These roots grow up into a jazz foundation that’s built firmly upon the likes of Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk.
2010 found the quartet releasing The Sensation of Seeing light, a 7″ vinyl single, for Record Store Day in April, as well as releasing their LP “Stay Gold” on both CD & double 12″ vinyl in June. Both albums were released on JFJO’s record label Kinnara Records. In between these releases the band toured the East Coast & West Coast in the US as well as a month in Europe, all before the year was half way through. The band wrapped up the year with various festival plays, further touring of the Midwest, and a New Year’s Eve show at the legendary Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, OK.
For its 21st album, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey reaches into the dark annals of its hometown’s history and emerges with a masterwork: The Race Riot Suite. Written, arranged and orchestrated by Chris Combs, the album is a long-form conceptual piece that tells the devastating story of the 1921 Tulsa race riot– a real estate-driven ethnocide occurring under the guise of citizen-dispensed justice. The oil-elite, civic government and local press colluded to take advantage of a racially tense climate in Jim Crow-era Oklahoma, resulting in the death of hundreds of black Tulsans and the destruction of an entire city district.
Through jittery, propulsive rhythms and melodies, the album reflects an onlooker’s journey through the night that changed Tulsa’s landscape and nearly destroyed the country’s most thriving black community. The music is at times nostalgic, bombastic, anguished and mournful, yet ultimately a celebration of the Greenwood community and its unflinching resiliency.
In addition to the permanent line-up of Combs (lap steel), Brian Haas (piano), Josh Raymer (drums) and Jeff Harshbarger (bass), the quartet enlisted the assistance of world class horn players Jeff Coffin (Bela Fleck, Dave Matthews Band), Steven Bernstein (Sex Mob, Levon Helm), Peter Apfelbaum (Hieroglyphics, Don Cherry), Mark Southerland (Snuff Jazz) and Matt Leland (a founding JFJO member). Click here for more info on The Race Riot Suite project.
Watch the JFJO classic quartet perform: