Industrial Jazz Group
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Industrial Jazz Group

Los Angeles, California, United States | INDIE

Los Angeles, California, United States | INDIE
Band Jazz Avant-garde

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"Industrial Jazz Group"

With echoes of the Breuker Kollektief and the Either/Orchestra bouncing around the novel large ensemble charts by this LA outfit, there's plenty of entertainment in the air. But these Zappa fans seldom let the goofiness get the best of 'em. A blend of drama, chops, and scope sees to that. Even "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboy-Presidents" has a serious side.

--Jim Macnie (2007) - Village Voice


"LEEF"

It's difficult to fathom a universe where someone would not enjoy listening to LEEF. One would have to be conditioned, Clockwork Orange-style, into finding the sound of musical instruments morally reprehensible. There's nothing on the Industrial Jazz Group's album that couldn't be embraced wholeheartedly by someone with an otherwise unrepentant disdain for all things jazzy.

It's fitting that composer, pianist and band leader Andrew Durkin (whose PhD is in English Literature) admires the work of Donald Barthelme, the late author known for verbal collage and whose wackiness did not contradict his status as a literary giant. LEEF's compositions are steeped in post-everythingisms, and what could have been a straightforward document of a May 2007 gig at Amsterdam's Bimhuis is given the collage treatment via musique concrete and other abstractive embellishments.

A strong melodist, Durkin knows which intervals, timbres, chord changes and style choices can maximize the elements of humor and surprise. The IJG's fifteen members execute those tasks superbly, tackling everything from polytonality and organized chaos to ebullient soul and dance-band schmaltz. It takes tremendously skilled players to navigate the wide terrain of charts like "Bongo Non Troppo" and the short attention span-friendly "Fuck the Muck" with such apparent ease. Jill Knapp, the group's outstanding vocalist, takes an engaging musical theater of the absurd approach to Durkin's sardonic lyrics.

The band shouldn't be disserviced by marginalization as comedy though, because the group aesthetic is that there is no group aesthetic. That being said, they function well as a party band, if that's desired.

But LEEF is as cerebral as it is silly, right down to its clever sequencing. Trombonist Mike Richardson's "Road Poem"—alas, the lone track that feels a bit too in-jokey, like the "touring can make you crazy" satire of Frank Zappa's 200 Motels—is nevertheless a fine segue into "Big Ass Truck," a song that demonstrates that Durkin could be writing great pop-rock if only he had a narrower instrumental imagination. Elsewhere, chants of "Oh yes, I'm bad/Bad to the bone" (presumably by the trombonists) in "What's In Anne's Icebox?" lead into an allusion to a "guy with horns" in "The Job Song."

"The Job Song" will offer laughs to anyone who has pursued an artistic career against the financial advice of parents, teachers, and—Satan? The moral is that doing what one loves yields rewards far greater than monetary ones; the song proves its own thesis beautifully (it hails from the band leader's days with another polystylistic group, The Evelyn Situation, which also featured Knapp).

It helps that LEEF's humor is self-effacing. Durkin is the Conan O'Brien of jazz, joking about the band's alleged lack of appeal when so much evidence exists to the contrary (Durkin's biography labels him a "hack composer and pseudo-intellectual"). During "Ladies and Gentlemen," Knapp sings of the band, "I hope you like them but I doubt you will." That's the most absurd idea on an album full of absurd ideas—the suggestion that anyone could dislike a band that's so overwhelmingly likable.

-- Brad Glanden (2008) - All About Jazz


"Industrial Jazz a Go Go!"

It is fair to say that the Industrial Jazz Group plays unpredictable music. Heard along the way are strong hints of rock & roll, blues, Eastern European folk music, dixieland, r&b, dance music, avant-garde ensembles and Stravinsky, and that is only in the opening number 'Doo Wha?' Led by pianist Andrew Durkin and consisting of seven horns and a three-piece rhythm section, the Industrial Jazz Group can almost be thought of as an American version of Willem Breuker's Kollektief. Alternating complex written ensembles with jammed sections and overheated solos, their music is avant-garde but never dry or meandering; not with their wacky sense of humor and knowledge of earlier styles.

The band's strong musicianship and ability to instantly switch styles keeps it from merely being a musical comedy act although there are sections on Industrial Jazz A Go Go (available from www.evandermusic.com) where it will be difficult not to chuckle. Mixing together satire and reverence for the many musical idioms, the Industrial Jazz Group is both a crack up and a memorable musical experience. This is a band that certainly deserves to be much better known.

--Scott Yanow (2006) - LA Jazz Scene


"Industrial Jazz Group at the Barnsdall Gallery Theater"

It’s a circus, and it’s totally fun. So Andrew Durkin, who leads Industrial Jazz Group, risks not being taken seriously, risks getting his cleverness mistaken for shallowness. Avoid that error. Watch chrome-domed Durkin, flailing his arms in a generally successful effort to get 17 excellent local musicians (Kris Tiner, Rob Jacobson, Ben Wendel et al.) on the same page — which they’d better be, since they’re constantly switching tempos, time signatures and styles. Dig the way sidelong tributes to Oliver Nelson or Ray Charles are broken up like spastic clutches on the remote control, yet unite thanks to their author’s imagination and overboiling energy. Best, though least obvious, is Durkin’s dense harmonic writing, which perfectly gathers harsh modern conflicts into a viable human bloodstream. Wear a costume, get a free CD (they’re all good).

-- Greg Burk (2006) - LA Weekly


"Winning Spins"

The Star Chamber (Innova Records), credited to the Industrial Jazz Group, is the brainchild of New Jersey native turned Californian Andrew Durkin, who composed the seven tracks, leads the nonet and plays piano. Despite the group name, he likes fanfares, fugues and swing riffs as well as the pounding staccato repetitions that do indeed suggest the name.

Of the Big M Triumvirate, Durkin favors Charles Mingus, employing such favored Mingus devices as accelerando, stop-times, communal improvising, bursts of barely controlled cacophony contrasting funky ensembles, and titles brimming with political fury and satire reflected in the music.

Durkin's tunes also mix up tempos and themes, employ drop-outs to spotlight solos, and have an often zany, post-modern feel (in the best sense). His ensemble sound is distinctly his own too, employing a high palette with the three reeds never playing lower than one tenor sax, more often soprano saxes and clarinet or alto saxes and flutes. The two trumpets also favor upper registers, as does the trombone. Solos are often shared or done in tandems of twos or threes, and soloists can be shrilling as well as thrilling.

My favorite track is the last: "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboy-Presidents," a mordantly funny, mock-heroic paean to George W. Bush.

--George Kanzler (2005) - Hot House: New York's Monthly Jazz Nightlife Guide


"The Industrial Jazz Group: The Star Chamber"

The group name is only misleading if it leaves you expecting full-on metallurgical ugliness instead of machine-tooled modern jazz compositions of exquisite precision and strong aesthetic appeal. [The Star Chamber] is effectively a live document of the IJG 2003 vintage, and a set of themes and solos that will recall the Either/Orchestra or one of the jazzier downtown ensembles of the late 80s. [...] Durkin's team numbers a couple of outstanding soloists -- saxophonist Beth Schenck and trumpeter Phil Rodriguez -- and a crisp, punchy ensemble sound anchored on bassist Aaron Kohen and drummer Aaron McLendon.

-- Brian Morton (2004) - The Wire


"The Industrial Jazz Group: City of Angles"

While the Industrial Jazz Group's odd moniker conjures images of Nine Inch Nails with a horn section, the Los Angeles nonet is actually about as "industrial" as Bob Seger. (Just in case, City of Angles' cover includes the warning "File under: 'Jazz.'") Fortunately, even the "jazz" in the band's name is a word best applied loosely. Eschewing the usual format of a brief melody line followed by various solos and a return to the melody, composer/pianist Andrew Durkin prefers to grow his pieces organically, flitting between styles with effortless precision.

The opening track on the CD, "Theme From City of Angles," proceeds like a tweaked marching band number -- John Philip Sousa on steroids -- with Cory Wright pumping baritone sax over a peppy drumbeat, followed by piano, trombone, flute, vibraphone, and trumpet parts that never dissolve into indulgent soloing. "Full-On Freak" has an even richer flavor of late-'50s, early-'60s swing, as the horn section lays down a groove that would do Cab Calloway proud. The industrial part of the group -- such as it is -- breaks in on "Losing Proposition," when crunchy synth and theremin disturb the smooth surface of the danceable jazz.

Durkin's ear for catchy, peppy tunes, and the ability to spread them among his web of musical voices, has the Ellingtonian touch to it -- the sense of a music flowing upward and outward from its sources, changing as it goes, but never losing the feel of its origins. In addition to Duke, Durkin also counts Frank Zappa and Charles Mingus amongst his inspirations. With the achievements of this second Industrial Jazz Group album, it's possible to imagine composers citing Durkin himself as an influence someday.

--David Hadbawnik (2003) - SF Weekly


"The Industrial Jazz Group: Jazz Pick of the Week"

Brainchild of 33-year-old pianist-composer Andrew Durkin, the L.A.-based Industrial Jazz Group makes music that is both cerebral and swinging, ambitious and accessible, challengingly complex and unabashedly fun. Durkin, an English doctoral student at USC, formed the IJG two years ago specifically to pursue his own jazz writing, an act of perhaps astonishing chutzpah for a man with no formal compositional training. But what Durkin does have is an ear, and about as vivid a musical imagination as you could ask for. He's also got extraordinarily eclectic taste and an absolutely uncanny ability to synthesize just about all of it. Durkin's quick to point to Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington, and Frank Zappa as his "big three" influences, but as anyone knows who's heard the IJG's wonderful debut CD, Hardcore (Ugly Rug; 2001), that's just the tip of the iceberg. Everyone from Bob Graettinger to Bernard Herrmann, Raymond Scott, Gil Evans and Kurt Weill can be heard swimming through Durkin's orchestral mix. Like Ellington, he knows how to arrange his exacting compositions to give his soloists room to stretch out; like Evans, he knows how to use quick dynamic shifts to exaggerate the size of his groups; and like Scott and Zappa, he has a sense of playfulness that's always within a wink away. City of Angles, the group's second CD and a brilliant homage -- both ominous and comical -- to our plastic town, is due out on the 23rd. Come to this gig, snag a copy early and stay on for the ride. With Evan Francis and Cory Wright on multiple woodwinds, trombonist Garrett Smith, trumpeter Kris Tiner, bassist Aaron Kohen and drummer Bill Wysaske. At Rocco, Thurs.-Fri., July 11-12.

-- Brandt Reiter (2002) - LA Weekly


"Industrial Jazz Group: City of Angles"

I'm not really sure how you play peanut butter, but according to the liner notes, Eldad Tarmu of the Industrial Jazz Group doubles as a vibraphonist and a peanut butterist. In addition, composer Andrew Durkin, responsible for nearly all of the pieces on this album, advises listeners to skip one track ("a bombastic Wagnerian jazz-dreck") altogether. These interjections in the packaging speak volumes about the ironic humor that pervades the second recording from this ensemble of 11 musicians out of Los Angeles. Rolling every style of jazz possible into one sound and making use of the avant-garde bag of tricks, the IJG is a refreshing oasis in the desert of seriousness that is postmodern jazz. - NewMusicBox


"Industrial Jazz Group: LEEF"

Within moments, I was grinning, then laughing, then shaking my head at the complexity of the music and the skill with which the IJG performed it [...] The humor is both subtle and slapstick, the musicianship consistently impressive [...] But it's the music that matters most. The music is good.

-- Doug Ramsey (2008) - Rifftides


Discography

Hardcore (Uglyrug, 2001)
City of Angles (Innova, 2002)
The Star Chamber (Innova, 2004)
Industrialjazzwerke, vol. 1 (Uglyrug, 2004)
Industrial Jazz a Go-Go! (Evander, 2006)
LEEF (Evander, 2008)

Photos

Bio

In its eight-year history, the 16-piece Industrial Jazz Group has developed a reputation for fun, high-energy, quirky, genre-bending shows, featuring what it calls “avant garde party music.” Frustrated by the limitations of “Jazz, the Institution,” but equally resistant to the confines of modern pop, the IJG has slowly pioneered a hybrid sound: an idiosyncratic blend of rock, bebop, cartoon soundtracks, trad jazz, blues, funk, Balkan music, doo wop, and, well, a lot of other stuff. (In the end, it’s neither “industrial” nor “jazz,” so don't let the name fool you.)

Critics consistently cite both the sophistication and the accessibility of the IJG's music. The group’s quirky sonic stew was once summed up by Brandt Reiter of the LA Weekly as both “cerebral and swinging, ambitious and accessible, challengingly complex and unabashedly fun.” Scott Yanow of LA Jazz Scene, who compares the IJG to Holland’s Willem Breuker Kollektief, enthusiastically calls the group “both a crack up and a memorable musical experience." And Tom Bowden of Educational Digest once wrote that “[IJG composer Andrew] Durkin writes music that people who think they hate jazz would like.” (A fact that explains why IJG has been invited to perform at popular music festivals like SXSW and Midpoint.)

The group's most recent CD, LEEF, released in 2008, was recorded live at the world-famous Bimhuis in Amsterdam. In addition to performing overseas, the IJG has toured the US, playing many shows in California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. It has received numerous grants from the American Composers Forum, has been supported by the NEA and the McKnight Foundation, and has been heard on NPR and hundreds of radio stations around the world. Write-ups on the IJG have appeared in LA Weekly, SF Weekly, The Wire, The North Bay Bohemian, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Boston Herald, The New York Times, The Village Voice, Willamette Week, and numerous other publications.