Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey’s ‘Race Riot Suite’ Due Aug. 30

New Album Takes On Tragic 1920s Oklahoma Event

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
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Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey will release their 21st album Race Riot Suite (Kinnara/Royal Potato Family) on August 30. Conceived, written and arranged by the band’s lap steel guitarist Chris Combs, the recording is a long-form conceptual piece that tells the tragic story of the 1921 Tulsa race riot. JFJO’s core lineup, which in addition to Combs includes Brian Haas (piano), Jeff Harshbarger (bass) and Josh Raymer (drums), is accompanied by a five-piece horn section featuring Steven Bernstein (trumpet), Peter Apfelbaum (tenor and baritone saxophone), Jeff Coffin (tenor saxophone), Mark Southerland (tenor saxophone) and Matt Leland (trombone). The album was produced by Costa Stasinopoulos and recorded at Tulsa’s Church Studio less than a mile from where the riot happened.

In 1921, Tulsa was home to a powerful and affluent African-American community. In one of the largest racial conflicts and cover-ups in American history, massive race riots resulted in the death of hundreds of black Tulsans and the destruction of the entire Greenwood city district, including “Black Wall Street.”

“We felt obligated as Oklahomans to shine a light. What played a big part in the creation of the suite was that it wasn’t talked about in Tulsa or taught in schools. So it’s kind of this weird looming thing around a really comfortable middle-class suburban community,” explains Combs. “As a Tulsan, there was this weird darkness that was still looming. It wasn’t talked about. It was deliberately covered up by the local government and press. The idea came from me as a jazz musician and a Tulsan having an emotional reaction to what I learned.”

JFJO debuted Race Riot Suite in its entirety with a live performance at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center this past May. They will embark on a U.S. tour to support the album’s release in the fall.