An engaging tandem of instrumental ensembles defied the notion that improvisational music can’t be wildly entertaining at The Brick on Thursday.
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and the duo of Charlie Hunter and Scott Amendola inspired members of an audience of about 50 to yell, laugh and shake their heads in amazement.
The level of musicianship displayed Thursday was breathtakingly high, but many of the accompanying hijinks were refreshingly lowbrow. Both sets of jazz pranksters have gleefully subverted expectations while undermining conventions throughout their extensive careers.
Seven-string guitarist Hunter and drummer Amendola, longtime musical partners, performed first. Their intuitive interplay was so remarkable that when Hunter introduced a selection by suggesting that “Scott’s going to play the melody on this,” the assertion didn’t seem implausible.
The two applied their daredevil approach to the compositions of country star Hank Williams, classic songwriter Cole Porter, former Beatle John Lennon, jazz great Duke Ellington and the rock band The Cars during their 80-minute set.
A twangy rendition of Williams’ “Cold, Cold Heart” resembled a venomous mutation of Western swing while The Cars’ sleek “Good Times Roll” was transformed into an unpolished blues. The pair was inspired to slap each other’s hands at the conclusion of several pieces.
Several of Hunter’s albums have been released by the esteemed jazz label Blue Note Records, but Hunter is hardly a jazz purist. Seemingly apropos of nothing, Hunter told Thursday’s audience a story about seeing the punk rock band Black Flag perform in his home town of Berkeley, Calif.
While the duet format employed by Hunter and Amendola didn’t seem stark, the dense attack of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey was comparatively symphonic. Now a trio (Kansas City musicians Jeff Harshbarger and Mark Southerland are no longer on the roster), the ensemble that was founded in Tulsa in 1994 has embraced a noisy new attack that bears little resemblance to its 2011 masterwork album “The Race Riot Suite.”
Centered on Chris Combs’ violent guitar work, the band combined the aggression of a rock band with the prowess of jazz performers. In a profane outburst after a particularly rambunctious selection during Jacob Fred’s hour-long set, a fan exclaimed that the offering was “filthy.” The intriguing sonic textures and sinewy rhythms of another new song sounded like a pop hit by Usher played backward.
As with most of the music performed Thursday at The Brick, the composition was outlandishly creative, extremely funny and entirely enthralling.