by Brian Weidy
There are some performances that you know will be transcendent as soon as they begin. As a part of the "Late Night Groove Series" at Blue Note, the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey began their set with a brief introduction from Brian Haas, pianist and de facto group leader. He described the brutal occurrences of the race riots that occurred in Tulsa—Haas' hometown—in 1921, and how their latest album, The Race Riot Suite, chronicles those events through music.
Almost everyone in the crowd was new to the band, and only as Haas began the suite by tinkering around on his Fender Rhodes as the band moved into the second movement of the suite, "Black Wall Street," did the crowd begin to catch on. People were floored by the sheer musiciansmanship of each member of the band at first, but then, the transitions from movement to movement got the entire crowd energized, even as the clock approached 1 AM. Haas directed the band into "The Burning," a piece that evoked a sheer feeling of terror, with loud horn blasts from guest saxophonists Mark Southerland and Peter Apfelbaum creating a lush palate of sounds so evocatively, one could perfectly envision these riots.