Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey: Four In One

In a way, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey (JFJO) can be compared to NRBQ, each being an eclectic and playful jam band that draws from jazz, rock, and funk, and sports influences ranging from Thelonious Monk to Sun Ra. JFJO was formed in Tulsa, OK, in 1994, and in its new configuration adds "The Tulsa Sound" to its arsenal, as represented by artists such as Bob Wills and Woody Guthrie. At the start of 2009 the group was expanded from a trio to a quartet with the addition of Chris Combs on lap steel guitar, while bassist Matt Hayes replaced original bassist Reed Mathis. (There's never been a Jacob Fred in the group--that was just Haas's nickname in high school.) Combs' guitar helps give JFJO a refreshingly different sound, as heard for the first time on its new self-produced six-track EP, One Day in Brooklyn.

Haas plays Monk's "Four in One" theme liltingly, with subdued theremin-sounding background sighs from Combs' guitar and crisp, unvarnished rhythm support from Hayes and Raymer. Combs in a lyrical solo break takes his lap steel to the island of Hawaii, before Haas returns to moderately embellish the theme. Combs then resumes his improv, continuing to toy with the tune's melodic rather than harmonic structure, and eventually giving way again to Haas's equally thematic ruminations. Haas concludes by playing Monk's line once more in an appealingly light-touched manner. This is an unchallenging yet sonically fascinating take on "Four in One," not unlike the streamlined approach you might expect from Bill Frisell.

August 25, 2009 · 0 comments


Steve Lacy (featuring Elvin Jones): Four in One

After a Roy Haynes/Max Roach-influenced drum break to open "Four in One," Elvin Jones declares his singular presence with his multi-layered approach of building broken-triplets (with his snare and bass drums) on top of his complete cymbal/hi-hat pattern (00:07). Elvin (and his many talented disciples) play this pattern so often that it's easy to forget how much skill it requires. Note the brief yet revealing polyrhythmic fill that giftedly turns the beat around at the conclusion of Lacy's improvisation (2:20-2:23). This is just a glimpse of the heightened focus on polyrhythm that would increasingly define Jones's playing. Also note Elvin's energetic, "try-to-find-beat-one!" fills during the fours section at the tune's conclusion.

August 02, 2008 · 0 comments


Chick Corea & Gary Burton: Four In One

Charlie Rouse said that when Thelonious Monk first hired him in 1959, the leader taught him all Monk's tunes by playing them on the piano, except for more difficult ones like "Trinkle Tinkle," "Played Twice" and "Four in One," which Monk wrote out. On Corea and Burton's duet CD Native Sense, they saved the best for last, a rollicking performance of the tricky "Four in One." This was their fifth duet recording to date, and their first in 12 years, but their uncanny rapport made it seem as if they played together on a daily basis.

Corea's jagged, verging-on-dissonant intro sets up his madcap trip through the serpentine theme in loose unison with Burton, or, if you will, off-kilter counterpoint, accentuated by the pianist's sporadic smashed chords. Burton solos first, his trademark four-mallet intricate lines and warm vibrato on keen display, his playing, as always, both technically impeccable and openly lyrical. Corea's response is totally unpredictable, his swift, tumbling runs interspersed with jolting single notes and chords, as well as distorted allusions to stride, but somehow always keeping the melodic line in clear sight. He and Burton next exchange short passages in highly responsive and inventive fashion, before another refreshing, harmonically slack treatment of the theme, concluded by Corea's one last exuberant, Monkish "trinkle tinkle."

July 02, 2008 · 0 comments


Danilo Perez: Evidence and Four in One

Monk's music can make a person uncomfortable. Even with the most basic blues forms, his off-kilter phrasing had that “patting my head while rubbing my tummy” kind of thing going on. Ugly beauty indeed! Danilo Perez takes the role of “stunt pianist” here, playing “Evidence” with the left hand, and “Four In One” with the right. Cynics might scoff at such a trick, yet the results are anything but gimmicky. With the center section swinging like mad on the double-composition hybrid, Perez cleanly illuminates the brilliance of Monk's music.

November 04, 2007 · 0 comments


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