Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey: Walking With Giants

If you could turn the music on Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey’s new disc Walking With Giants (Hyena) into text, every word would be boldfaced or italicized, including “and” and “the.” Pianist Brian Haas, bassist Reed Mathis and drummer Jason Smart (note the absence of anyone named Jacob or Fred) play almost everything like it’s a climax, loud or soft, melody or accompaniment, contemplative or rambunctious. The transcription would also contain a lot of repeated phrases, because JFJO doesn’t generally develop melodies in the traditional sense, instead playing them, repeating them, then jamming in ways that stick very close to the melodies. (The occasional exceptions to the latter rule are invariably bracketed by a lot of thematic repetition.) Haas’ piano has an off-putting tinkly sound, like an old ragtime upright; Mathis spends a lot of time on the octave-pedal-induced bass, whose sustainable plangent whine will not appeal to everyone but does allow Mathis to approximate certain cool noises traditionally associated with the guitar. You could say that JFJO has a rock outlook on the piano trio, except that good rock bands either play very short compositions or develop their material better than JFJO does here. The album includes a bonus DVD with four live tracks.