Out in the high desert of Santa Fe, New Mexico, some 7,500 feet above sea level in the foothills of the majestic Sangre de Christo Mountains, strange and wonderful things were bubbling up when keyboardist Brian Haas and drummer Matt Chamberlain met in the magical adobe style Frogville Studios for three days of unadulterated improvisation. Unlike their previous collaboration, 2013’s Frames, which was meticulously through-composed by Haas and performed with exacting precision by the duo, ‘Prometheus Risen’ is a free-flowing, no-holds-barred, in-the-moment encounter based on daredevil instincts, a shared arranger’s aesthetic and mutual trust. While all the keyboard parts, Moog bass lines, ambient washes, textures, loops and huge groove playing on the kit might suggest a meticulously-crafted project involving multiple layers of overdubbing and tons of post-production work, the entire album was in fact done live in the studio.
Chamberlain, a revered drummer who has appeared on recordings with Brad Mehldau, Bill Frisell, Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Morrissey, Mike Gordon, Of Montreal, Marco Benevento, David Bowie and Herbie Hancock, among countless others, fully embraced the idea of exploring freely in the studio with Haas who, in addition to his solo work, tours with Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and Nolatet.
Together on ‘Prometheus Risen,’ Chamberlain and Haas present spontaneous composition at its finest. Chamberlain underscores pieces like “Space Colonization,” “Orange Purple Sunshine” and “African Crowley” with his signature massive beats, while also providing a rainbow of colors throughout by thinking orchestrally from behind the kit with his sampling/looping skills. Haas’ melodious, fuzz inflected electric keyboard motifs (tweaked with Space Echo), alternately cascading and minimalist piano flourishes and deep dub bass-lines drive numbers like “Less Munitions,” “More Mentations” and “Cosmic Vision.” “Ancestral Availability” has Haas on piano and Moog bass going toe-to-toe with Chamberlain’s controlled bashing in a manner that might recall Cecil Taylor’s historic duet encounters with Max Roach. That adventurous, suite-like “Holding Deckard’s Hand” melds cascading piano against an eerie ambient backdrop and throbbing backbeats, while “Intelligence Intensification” opens like a revved-up rocker and closes like a kinetic outtake from Philip Glass’ ‘Einstein on the Beach.’
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
While navigating 29 years,16 members, 27 albums, 11 European Tours and sometimes 300 shows a year in the U.S., Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey has become an institution in modern music. Defined by evolution and change, the band has invented it’s own language, one which defies genre. Beginning in Tulsa, OK in 1994 as a funky octet with MCs and horns, JFJO became an instrumental trio in 1999, a quartet in 2007 and expanded to a 9-piece ensemble for 2011’s acclaimed Race Riot Suite. Celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2014, the band returned to the trio setting with two critically loved albums one of which, Millions: Live In Denver, sold out it’s International Record Store Day Release. Now in it’s 29th year as a band, JFJO returns to the well known trio line up of Reed Mathis (Bass & Guitar), Brian Haas (Piano) and Jason Smart (Drums). Known as the OG Jacob Fred Trio (2000-2008), this is the version of the band that took EVERYTHING to the next level. This is the jazz trio that U.S. News and World Report called the “#1 New Star of Jazz in the World.”
In 2016, after experiencing some profound losses in her personal life and ceiling to take a break from the road, Belgian born Helen Gillet began a new campaign of inviting some of her favorite musical collaborators to her adopted city of New Orleans. For the 2016 New Orleans Jazz Fest season, Gillet decided to form a quartet with drummer Nikki Glaspie (NYC), Saxophonist Skerik (Seattle) and keyboardist Brian Haas (Santa Fe).
In May 2016 Gillet hosted a house concert with long time collaborator Brian Haas acoustic baby grand piano at which Nikki Glaspie and multi-instrumentalist Jessica Lurie (NYC) Sat in, turning this duo into a collective improvisational group Gilet later named Tephra Sound. The success of this house show inspired Gillet to record the groups first album “Horizon” in March 2017 in her living room with sound engineer Andrew “Goat” Gilchrist (House of 1000hz) Other musicians on the album include Alex Mazza on Trumpet, Rex Gregory on Reeds and Flute and Weedie Braimah on DJEMBE.
Tephra is a volcanic term referring to the combination of gasses, minerals and rock found in the ash cloud after an eruption. With power house drummer Nikki Glaspie (Beyonce, Nth Power, Ivan Neville, Maceo Parker), Gillets cello versatility and looped soundscapes, the creative compositional prowess of Jessica Lurie (Indigo Girls, Nels Cline, Fred Firth, John Zorn, Tiptons) And Brian Haas (Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Nolatet) The overarching sound explores phase shifting groove, wide dynamics and stylistic contrast.
As like vibration attracts like vibration, it’s no surprise that after years of collaboration, vibraphonist Mike Dillon, pianist Brian Haas, bassist James Singleton and drummer Johnny Vidacovich should finally become one with the formation of the Nolatet and the subsequent release of their debut album, Dogs. These four men have been in each other’s lives for as long as they can remember. Vidacovich and Singleton have been New Orleans’ best rhythm section since 1977, having backed everyone from Dizzy Gillespie to Professor Longhair to James Booker. Dillon and Haas have been sharing bills and sitting in with each other’s bands, including Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Garage A Trois and Dead Kenny Gs, on the same touring circuit since the mid-’90s. All four have played together countless times in numerous configurations. Individually, they are fiercely independent iconoclasts and bandleaders who compose, play and navigate their musical lives true to their own idiosyncratic visions.
“Musically speaking, the Nolatet is fearless. The music ebbs and flows effortlessly, like rebirthing an amoeba,” explains Mike Dillon. “We have one of the all time great New Orleans rhythm sections in Johnny Vidacovich and James Singleton. Like any great rhythm section, they make you find parts of yourself that you never knew existed. With that as our foundation, there’s no telling how far the music can expand with each performance.”
When it came time to record their debut album, Dogs, they’d set up shop at New Orleans’ famed Esplanade Studios, focusing on original material influenced by their diverse lives and perceptions as musicians. The quartet spans three decades in age—Vidacovich and Singleton in their 60s, Dillon in his 50s and Haas in his 40s—which informs the music with a wellspring of experiences and a multi-generational musical sensibility. While traditional jazz is the backbone and starting point for the Nolatet, each member’s piercing individuality and personal history allows innovation to be a constant throughout the recording. The entire album was recorded in one day, all first or second takes with no overdubs. Sketches for compositions were in place, but ultimately this is improvised music made in the moment with wild abandon and deep inspiration.
“When music is truly happening, it leads the way. When music is kinetic and meaningful, it sets its own agenda. When music is meant to be played, the music itself will find a way,” says Brian Haas. “This is how the Nolatet came into being. After so many incredible nights of collaborating over the years, which led to a a deep, enduring friendship, the music simply demanded it.”
Mike Dillon’s Punkadelic
Mike Dillon has spent the last three decades performing well over 200 shows a year with both his own band, as well as playing vibraphone and percussion with artists including Rickie Lee Jones, Les Claypool and Ani DiFranco. So when the pandemic hit in early 2020 forcing Dillon off the road, he instinctively directed his perpetually restless creative energy to writing and recording. Recently relocating to Kansas City after spending 15 years in New Orleans, Dillon and producer Chad Meise would track a trilogy of albums: ‘Shoot The Moon,’ ‘Suitcase Man’ and ‘1918.’ In collaboration with his longtime record label Royal Potato Family, they would offer the records exclusively via Bandcamp just days after they were mixed and mastered. In 2021, those albums now receive the full vinyl treatment, as well as complete digital release across all streaming outlets.
The first of the three records, ‘Shoot The Moon,’ is a ten track collection that Dillon describes as “Punkadelic-Funk-Psych” focused heavily on the current political climate in the United States. Assembling an assortment of stylistically uncompromising musicians to contribute, its line-up features Matt Chamberlain, Steven Bernstein, Nicholas Payton, Robbie Seahag Mangano, Jean-Paul Gaster and Nick Bockrath among others. Highlights include the apocalyptic road warrior anthem “Drivin’ Down The Road,” a swirling New Orleans jazz-raga “Further Adventures in Misadventures” and the snarling punk rock diatribe “Quool Aid Man” with its indictment of the American right: “old men and their guns.”