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Better off Fred



Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
8 p.m. Friday
Cain’s Ballroom
423 N. Main, Tulsa
$19 advance, $25 door

Brian Haas does not subscribe to your ideas of music.

“It’s hard to have a conversation about music genres, because I simply don’t believe in them,” said Haas, pianist and founding member of Tulsabased Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. “Just relax and enjoy it. It’s just music.”

It’s not just empty rhetoric. Jazz, country, hip-hop and pop all find their way into JFJO’s wildly varied mix, which was most recently displayed on this year’s “Stay Gold” album.

But the band took it one step further this summer by completing and performing “Ludwig,” a massive reinterpretation of Beethoven’s third and sixth symphonies with a 50-piece orchestra at Bartlesville’s annual OK Mozart festival.

And to follow that up, JFJO will take a victory lap: covering Lady Gaga.

The group’s New Year’s Eve show at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa will feature not only her tunes, but Tulsa jazz singer Annie Ellicott filling the role of the “Fame Monster.”

And if you can’t read her poker face, you can get excited for Beyoncé and Madonna, played by Travis Fite and Costa Stasinopoulos of Dead Sea Choir, respectively. The quartet of JFJO will reinterpret the three divas’ songs in its own unique style, with the three vocalists accompanying. And if the genre mash-up confuses you, good. It’s good for you, said Haas.

“America has single-handedly taken music and turned it into a fashion accessory,” Haas said. “You can tell the kids who listen to punk rock because they dress like they listen to punk rock. You can tell the kids who listen to indie rock because they dress like they listen to indie rock.”

So, what about kids who listen to JFJO?

“I don’t see a lot of kids in skinny black jeans at our concerts,” he said. “Most of the people who come to our shows dress like they listen to jazz. It’s a ludicrous thing to do with music.”

But don’t you have the word “jazz” in your name, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey?

“The dumbest thing I ever did was put the word ‘jazz’ in the name of the band as a 19-year-old. I was just trying to make a positive statement that jazz can be anything you want it to be,” Haas said. “We wanted jazz in the name to piss off the people who thought they knew what jazz was. Jazz is bigger than one little Glenn Miller tune.”

Way to stick it to the man, JFJO. Is it working?

“Well, we still run into it in our hometown,” he said. “People will say, ‘You’re fun, but you’re not playing jazz.’ If we’re not, then who is?” That’s a good question. But what do “Crazy in Love” and “In the Mood” have to do with each other?

“Jazz started as pop music in the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s, all the way up to the ’50s. Jazz was America’s popular music for many, many years,” Haas said, noting that Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Nina Simone and Billie Holliday all covered pop songs. “Jazz has always been completely informed by pop.”

That’s pretty forward-thinking, JFJO.

“That’s one of the reasons we do this: to show people,” Haas said. “It’s nothing out of the ordinary for me. It’s not even that much of a stretch.”

So you really think people are going to get this and love it?

“I think people are selling themselves short. I think they’re missing out on something that could be a spiritual experience just because they only listen to one genre,” he said. “I think music in America would be supported in a much grander way if people would experience a wider variety. When people decide that they’re going to listen to music based on genre, everything suffers.”

That’s pretty pessimistic.

“I’m not trying to be demeaning.My end outlook is a positive,” Haas said. “It’s a slow, hard battle, but it’s one I won’t give up.”

So this has got to be as pop as it gets, huh? Lady Gaga’s pretty much the max.

“It’s been suggested we do Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus and Carrie Underwood next year,” Haas said. “I said, ‘Wow, now you’re thinking.’”

Well, that wins the award for “Thing I Least Expected You to Say Right There.”

“It’s all genre-less art for me,” Haas said. “I really enjoy that music, and it’s fun to reinvent it.”

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