Over the past 15 years, the odyssey of JFJO has seen quite a few faces come and go. The studio debut release of the 2009 configuration, One Day in Brooklyn, finds one of the smoothest efforts of the jazz scenes wild child. The four-piece JFJO – Brian Haas (piano, keys), Josh Raymer (drums, percussion) and new arrivals Chris Combs (lap steel, guitar) and Matt Hayes (upright bass) – spent one long day in Brooklyn earlier this year to create the six song EP that showcases the future of the Fred, while giving us just a few licks of what the winter’s full length album will hold.
A double-dose cover from the great blind multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk clearly shows the confidence and swagger this latest version of the Fred has to offer on the opening track. "A Laugh for Rory/ Black & Crazy Blues" is dedicated to their recently departed friend and producer Joel Dorn. The long notes of Combs' sliding lap steel guitar mix with the emotion that Haas can draw from the deepest corners of his piano, while likely the best rhythm section the Fred has ever unleashed in Raymer and Hayes give a text-book jazz lesson in keeping the parading jam on this universe.
One of two original songs on the album, "Country Girl" brings the two newest members Combs and Hayes to the forefront. For me, this song best shows how well the group is able to compose with one another. One thing is for sure: this band is led by Brian Haas. Songs like the Beatles "Julia" show off the leadership role that Haas has taken with Reed Mathis out of the picture. For longtime fans, this is where One Day in Brooklyn takes a different route. Haas understands that his piano can carry the weight of this new quartet for the present.
It isn’t fair to make any judgments on what the future of the Fred holds. The sound changes over night and, with this newest arrangement, it might be changing every second. But One Day in Brooklyn is enjoyable, and gives hope that the band will continue to challenge the jazz community to not simply live in the past ,but to open up its mind a few more feet for the genre’s wild card.
One Day in Brooklyn is now out on Kinnara Records.