Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey

All Is One: Live in New York City

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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson

Bop snobs love to lump all avant-garde jazz together and claim that all of it is mindless screaming, but the people who make such claims haven't done their homework. Most of them wouldn't know Cecil Taylor from Horace Tapscott, nor would they be able to tell the Art Ensemble of Chicago from Ornette Coleman & Prime Time. The point is that there are many different shades of avant-garde. There is extreme avant-garde (Charles Gayle), and there are mildly avant-garde outfits such as the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. Like the group's previous work, All Is One: Live in New York City favors an inside/outside approach (more inside than outside) and offers an eccentric blend of jazz, funk, and rock. This CD documents a two-day appearance at the Knitting Factory -- one of New York's top venues for avant-garde jazz -- in March 2002. True to form, the JFJO demonstrates that being left of center doesn't mean being unfocused or incoherent; keyboardist/pianist Brian Haas, bassist Reed Mathis, and drummer Jason Smart know exactly what they are doing on risk-taking numbers like "Vernal Equinox" and "Grub Ridge Stomp." One piece that really speaks volumes about the JFJO is "Thelonious Monk Is My Grandmother," which incorporates elements of Monk's sound but does so without slavishly emulating the revolutionary pianist -- the tune demonstrates that improvisers can learn from jazz's past without being total slaves to it. Inevitably, bop snobs who lack a sense of humor will find the title "Thelonious Monk Is My Grandmother" offensive, but the JFJO isn't really making fun of Monk; the group is simply putting its goofy sense of humor to work. All Is One paints a consistently attractive picture of the JFJO's Knitting Factory appearance of March 2002.

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