Talent, fun and age attract Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey to Norman Music Festival
The quartet that creates the mystifying Jacob Fred persona continues to evolve their jazzy musical discourse after 18 years and counting.
“It is always evolving and part of the concept behind the band being called Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey is that there isn’t a Jacob Fred in the band,” lap steel player Chris Combs said. “So, the idea is that it is kind of a leaderless ensemble that the Jacob Fred persona kind of migrates to whoever has the energy at the time. That’s what keeps it interesting and what keeps the shows fun.”
Combs grew up listening to Jacob Fred back when the band was a trio and eventually joined the Tulsa ensemble composed of Brian Haas, Josh Raymer and Jeff Harshbarger. Now, Combs has become an integral piece in forming the inimitable Jacob Fred language that remains largely improvisational.
“We love bringing people together and hosting the party,” Combs said. “We feel like a lot of what we do is presented in the jazz language, but it is also influenced by hip-hop and a lot of modern rock and roll and indie music.”
Before Jacob Fred plays the main stage at NMF, the guys will consume their fair share of beef jerky and come in for a group hug that Combs believes is pretty important. However, the vibe of their set relies upon the crowd.
“We play jazz clubs, with tables and chairs where people are sitting and listening,” Combs said. “Then we play more rock-oriented rooms where people are up and dancing and partying… So, [the shows] are all different. We are grateful for all of them though, because so much of what we do is based on improvisation. We really respond and play differently to each crowd depending on the energy we are receiving.”
Combs confessed that NMF gets better with age, and the fun and talent it features has made Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey proud to be a part of it.
“It seems like overall, statewide, the music scenes are all improving and there is just a lot of original music and things to be proud of as an Okie these days,” Combs said. “Musically, not politically.”