Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
The Sameness of Difference
First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2006, Volume 13, #1
Written by John Metzger
On its latest effort The Sameness of Difference, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey continues its quest to move beyond the framework of the jam-band scene, but it still seems reluctant to sever completely the ties that continue to bind it to the rock ’n‘ roll community. Throughout the album, the ensemble delves into an odd assortment of cover songs that include Jimi Hendrix’s Have You Ever Been to Electric Ladyland, Brian Wilson’s Wonderful, The Beatles’ Happiness Is a Warm Gun, and Neil Young’s Don’t Let It Bring You Down. The problem, however, is that although the trio approaches each of these tunes from an avant-garde perspective, it stops short of truly reinventing them. Instead, the resulting interpretations sound forcibly stuffed inside a light, jazz-hued encasement.
Still, The Sameness of Difference does mark another step forward for Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, even if the progression is smaller than the one that the group took with its previous endeavor Walking with Giants. The big breakthroughs, this time, are that the ensemble not only further has replaced its sophomoric tendencies with a sense of refined maturity, but that it also has improved its ability to establish and hold a mood. Charles Mingus’ Fables of Faubus, for example, is an understated, but no less inspired stab at capturing the drama of Broadway, and in that regard it succeeds nearly as much as the collective’s attempt at tackling The Flaming Lips’ The Spark that Bled fails. Elsewhere, the group whips its own Halliburton Breakdown into a jittery gem, and it effectively delivers the Latin-tinged Santiago with a playful elegance.
Over the course of its past few outings, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey has shown a lot of promise, and it’s goal of bringing jazz — real jazz, as opposed to perniciously pretentious noodling — is certainly admirable. In the end, however, The Sameness of Difference suffers from the band’s unwillingness to embrace fully the stylistic impulses of the classic artists with whom it seems to want to be associated.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box