Album Review | The J. & F. Band Go From the Roots to the Sky

The J and F Band have dropped a new album comprising eight tunes built on talent formed over a lifetime. Heavy on jazz, both straight and avant-garde, but infused with improv rock roots, thanks to an Allman Brothers connection and an eclectic group of contributors.

‘Jaimoe’ (Johnny Lee Johnson), one half of ‘J & F’ along with bassist and band leader, Joe Fonda, got his start back in the sixties playing for acts like Otis Redding and Stax, but his jazz background was always at the core. Although better known for their extended, mind melting guitar solos, the Allman brothers were influenced by Coltrane as much as the guitar heroes that led to their being embraced by contemporary crowds. Jaimoe’s jazz factor made him a crucial component of their musical mix.

This disciplined and experienced group of musical elders cut the eight-track record across two days in Italy last February. With seven members and five guest appearances covering instruments from upright basses to a Fender Rhodes piano, the level of ambition alone warrants a listen.

The band dedicate the epic ‘Spirits of the Great Plains’ to the much revered, recently departed Gregg Allman. At 15 minutes, this is no casual listen, but what really makes this a heavy digest is the transition from the sombre and reflective first 10 minutes into the galloping closing third. Ripping guitar and brass solos collide and soar across the musical horizon in tandem with manic drumming, creating a dense and busy atmosphere. The track reaches a nigh on explosion before scaling down to a blues undertone to conclude.

Another highlight is “West Bufalino”, which similarly goes through multiple costume changes. Worldly tones and ornamental flourishes imbue a picture of being lost somewhere deep in nature. Bit by bit, intermingling instruments clamber from the dissonant depths to a quirky melodic landing, with exotic, experimental scales guiding the way.

Part two of the album contains some monster jams, with ‘Super Jam’ clocking in at 28 minutes. It’s a challenging listen but a testament to the improvisational finesse of each and every every band member.

‘From the Roots to the Sky’ is musicians’ music in the truest sense of the phrase. There is a lifetime of mastery and experience colliding to create a sonic journey here.

You can find the record on Bandcamp.

5/5

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