JFJO - Walking with Giants

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
Walking with Giants


First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2004, Volume 11, #11

Written by John Metzger


Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey has more in common with the jazz world than it does with the undoubtedly more lucrative jam-band scene with which it most often is associated, and after a decade in the business, the ensemble has shed its electric, jazz-flavored, funk-rock ruminations in favor of more acoustic-oriented fare. That it also finds itself signed to the same label that currently is overseeing the release of Thelonious Monk’s archival recordings is certainly no accident, and its latest endeavor Walking with Giants makes good on the trio’s quest for a wider circle of respectability. Granted, there’s still a sense of stupidity to the collective’s song titles — for prime examples, look no further than Muppet Babies Get Lost at the State Fair, Skeeball over the Ocean, or the imperfectly punctuated Perfect Wife’s Flannel PJ’s — but this criticism quickly fades when one is pressed with the burbling rhythmic beats, the sprightly splatters of piano, or the textured accompaniments of octave-pedal-induced bass and cello that emanate from the current incarnation of the group.

The problem with Walking with Giants, however, is that Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey sometimes fails to find the necessary balance between its proficiently performed improvisational excursions and the ambient, moody, emotional resonance that it is attempting to capture, but at least on a handful of selections — such as the airy Calm Before the Storm, the expansive title track, and the positively lovely Lola and Alice — it demonstrates that this notion isn’t incomprehensibly out of reach. While there’s little that is truly innovative or avant-garde about Walking with Giants — those that think otherwise seriously need to consider listening to more classic jazz — the set demonstrates the trio’s ability to deliver its inspired interactions without pretension — and coming out of the jam-band scene, that’s a refreshing change of pace. starstarstar

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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


Copyright © 2004 The Music Box