Long-running jazz (and beyond!) group Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey (or JFJO) plays Dicks Den on Monday, November 10th at 10pm. Though the band often plays larger, pricier venues, Dick’s has stayed close to its normal pricing and ticketing policies for this event: Tickets are $5, and only available at the door, so this will be a special show. As JFJO was founded in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1994, the current tour in support of new album Worker celebrates the band’s 20 year anniversary. The band has changed lineups and direction many times, but the present trio version of founding member Brian Haas (keyboards), Chris Combs (guitars), and Joshua Raymer (drums) has played together since 2008. Worker finds the band continuing to evolve, and should make great material for Monday’s show. Combs was kind enough to answer my questions via email this week about the band and the show, so keep reading for his insights:
Andrew Patton (AP): The live and recorded history of JFJO has been marked by continued evolution in lineup and sound. After Stay Gold and The Race Riot Suite, Worker sounds like another shift to me, delving deeper into electronic sounds while maintaining some jazz sensibilities. Were there any particular events or influences that helped inspire the sound of the new album?
Chris Combs (CC): For us, we never sit around and say, “Ok, this is what we did for the last album, lets do something totally different for the next”…it kinda just happens naturally and is influenced by what we’re listening to at the time. We decided to transition the group to a trio and, in doing so, had to re-learn how to play together in a lot of ways. When I write, I like to compose and demo out my songs, then take the demos into rehearsal where the band learns them. We then have to figure out how to play the material…which this time led to Haas and I playing synthesizers.
AP: With the usage of electronics in making the album, how has the new material translated to the live stage? Have any adjustments been necessary?
CC: Most everything on the album was tracked live. There are a decent amount of overdubs, but nothing that we can’t pull off as a trio. There is a lot more freedom and improvisation…but overall I think the material has made an excellent transition.
AP: New tune “Betamax” has a pronounced swagger and joyful strut. What inspired that song? Do you favor Betamax over VHS in that evolutionary battle of video technology?
CC: “Betamax” was written by Haas about how quickly technology can change. There are many people today who don’t know what “Betamax” was and at one point it was an important part of technology.
AP: The Worker tour celebrates the 20th anniversary of JFJO as a band. What is your proudest moment or accomplishment for the band?
CC: There have been many for me since I joined the band in 2008. Writing the Race Riot Suite, traveling the country and touring internationally have been some big highlights. I’ve gotten to meet some of my musical heros which has been great. If I had to choose one…I might say playing the Race Riot Suite at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam with Steven Bernstein, Peter Apfelbaum, and Mark Southerland. I also got to see some amazing live music at that festival, including D’angelo, which was a bucket list performance for me.
AP: In your years of touring, the band has made several stops in Columbus, OH. Do you have any memories of previous shows in town, or thoughts on the city and its audiences?
CC: Columbus always kind of feels like home to JFJO…like we have a hometown crowd in a lot of ways. The band has been playing there for a long time and some of our favorite humans reside in the area. We’re excited to be coming back.
AP: Your Columbus show is at Dick’s Den, a jazz club that I believe is smaller than the places you typically play. Do you feel that the band’s live show works well in smaller spaces? What should potential concert-goers expect?
CC: One of my favorite parts of JFJO is the diversity of spaces in which we perform. Everything from festivals to jazz clubs to more rock-oriented rooms to theaters. The space always influences the music…but I think we do a good job of remaining true to ourselves wherever we are.
AP: I can’t wait for your show. Do you have anything else to add for those thinking about checking out your performance?
CC: Bring all your friends and let’s party!
AP: Let’s do it! Here’s a collection of videos to get you informed and excited, including the brand new animated video that combines new songs “Bounce” and “Betamax,” a documentary short on the making of Worker, and two live videos: