This Tulsa, Oklahoma, three-piece brims with contradictions. First off, "Jacob Fred" doesn't exist; the name is a pseudonym invented by pianist Brian Haas, who shares membership in the group with drummer Jason Smart and ultra-melodic bassist Reed Mathis. Second, "Jazz Odyssey" is a reference to a Derek Smalls song that bombs at a festival during a scene from 1984's This Is Spinal Tap, yet most of the Fred's music neither rocks with big-bottomed vengeance nor displays a zany sense of humor. With a handful of exceptions, the tunes that make up Walking With Giants, the combo's impressive 2004 debut for Hyena Records, and The Sameness of Difference, a first-rate followup slated for release on October 11, tend to be heady and intense, mingling delicacy with dynamism. In addition, JFJO just placed second in the "Rising Star: Electric Band" category of this year's Downbeat magazine critics' poll, even though the players pride themselves on playing acoustically -- and the combo has also been embraced by jam-music fanciers despite the fact that the word "jazz" actually belongs in its moniker. But while the Odyssey has plenty of oddities, they only make the trio more interesting. That's the biggest contradiction of all.
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