Thursday, April 27, 2006

Edmund Welles

Just stumbled across this group while browsing myspace. Four bass clarinets playing a combination of "who woulda thunk" covers (my favorite being the Knight Rider theme) and eerie originals. Sounds gmmicky, I know, but it ain't.

Oh, yeah, so the IJG is now on myspace. For a little whiile I was a little trepidatious about delving into this new tool, honestly. But I'm glad a few dedicated folks and fans talked me into it. If nothing else, so far the music I'm coming across is much cooler than most of the stuff I ever heard on all those years ago.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A report from the audience

Courtesy of Ryan McCracken at

Cut and pasted below for your convenience. Or, get the original here.

* * * * *

Friday, April 21. LA begins its weekend. Fresh from his inclusion in the LA Weekly 100 People 2006, Yo! List, Rocco Somazzi mans the door of the Barnsdall Gallery Theater in Los Feliz. The grounds surrounding the theater are quiet. Inside the theater…a different story. The Industrial Jazz Group is celebrating the release of Industrial Jazz a Go-Go.

I enter the theater a few minutes late with Soy Pudding, aka Betty, in tow. Horns cover the stage. They blare. They blaiiiiize! They brattttt. They bwaaa~iiiilllll! I suddenly need total and complete tonal immersion.

“Front row, Beth,” I nudge her. We sit down front and center. Things begin to get interesting. I count eleven horns, one guitar, electric bass, drums and pianist/conductor Andrew Durkin. One interpretive dancer. One chanteuss/singstress with a good set of pipes. Strangers from the audience and band members occasionally walk up to the microphone between songs and, accompanied by a soft horn or two, proceed to deliver Moondog- inspired epigrams, deadpan. Trumpeter Phil Rodriguez is wearing a sombrero, a multi-colored serape and mirrored cop shades. The guitarist sports swimtrunks, flippers and a snorkel. Everybody’s got a trick here. Not Durkin. Not the leader. He looks like George Lucas. He’s in t-shirt and jeans.

“They look like an IT department!” Betty giggles between songs.

“Beth, you have to understand jazz musicians. I went to North Texas. I was surrounded by these guys. Jazz cats. They’re probably world class. If this Industrial Jazz thing doesn’t work out they could turn around and book a session for Boz Skaggs in a heartbeat. Hell. Chicago? Jimmy Pankow? Memphis Horns? Nothing on these dudes. Listen to them. Don’t look at ‘em. Just listen. Beth, listen.”

I’ve been know to blow more wind out of this mouth than anybody on stage. I continue.

“Mingus Big Band? Hell. Just listen, damn it.”

The problem is, interesting things keep happening. We can’t just listen. We have to watch. The horns leave the stage mid-song to mingle with the audience [photo], honking all the while. The dancers keep doing freaky stuff. Some guy with a beard and coiff that would make George Lucas (and Durkin) green snaps photos, nonstop. The theatre is a hive of activity.

After the break a quintet appears on stage, led by Durkin. I must admit I’m enjoying the break from the guitar - he’s a solid player but admittedly unnecessary with all that windpower on stage. The bass however is mandatory, especially in the quintet. He’s spot-on. I suddenly remember that I need to get my fretless back from that girl in Hollywood before she craigslists the bejesus out of it.

The full group reappears and the madness continues for another half-hour. The bottom line: I don’t know when they’ll have this many people playing live again, but I intend to be there.

Pix from last Friday

Courtesy Gary Davis... these are two of many. More to come.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Insult to Injury

So out of the corner of my eye I just caught part of an episode of Neat, some dumb show on the Discovery Home channel. The premise? People with sloppy homes get them cleaned up by a team of anal retentives. But the kicker, during the episode that I saw anyway, was that the source of the clutter was a collection of 3000 CDs (as if that's a lot). The solution? Purge the collection! The first CDs to go? Obscure jazz!

Oh, yeah. That's what I'm talking about.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sucker Punch

So on Friday we had our big CD release show. You know, the one I’ve been hyping for about three months now.

I’m not going to mince words here. The experience was pretty disappointing for me. Oh, the group played beautifully (I’m convinced that these cats could pull musical inspiration out of a paper bag found in the street), and the venue sounded amazing (there is just nothing to beat the sound of a big band at full blast in an acoustically strong hall), and we finally accomplished my longstanding goal of adding a dancer to the show (the brave and amazing Valerie). Plus, we began to realize the more “theatrical,” dada-carnival conception of the IJG. And, hope against hope: a bunch of people in the audience actually wore costumes. So all the elements were present for an evening that would be memorable for all the right reasons.

But the performance was seriously compromised by a low turnout. Now, I wasn’t so clueless that I expected to fill the place (which seats around 300), but given that it was a Friday night, at 8 PM, in our home town, and given that we got a good (even intriguing) writeup in the Weekly, and given that we did a whole lot of other promotion (including grass roots promotion by everyone in the group -- you do the math), I did expect -- indeed, I think we deserved -- to have at least a hundred people get off their asses and check it out. We got maybe half that many.

On a “school night,” I’d be less bothered by such a thing. But on a Friday? At 8 PM? At a beautiful venue with plenty of free parking? I’m perplexed.What does it take to get people to come out and hear live music in this town? Is it not enough to have stellar musicians, unique compositions, singing, dancing, drama, and comedy? Do I need to throw hookers and cocaine into the mix too?

Is $10 too much to charge for two hours of live entertainment? I’m not convinced. I know people often drop more than that (especially when you add in the price of a bucket of popcorn) to go see a movie. And movie-going often doesn’t seem to be driven by any burning desire to see a specific film, but rather by a vague motivation to “go out.” Why are people less willing to take the same risk with live music? Maybe Glenn Gould was right, and the latter really is becoming an antiquated art form?

Do people just assume that a band like this will always be here, and that they can just catch us “the next time” (or the time after that, or the time after that…)? Do they expect that we’re satisfied with doing this sort of thing as a hobby? Do they lack any conception of the amount of work or the number of sacrifices that go into creating a show like this (work done and sacrifices made by everyone involved)? Do they even know what they’re missing? Or (worse still) is the problem deeper than all of these things put together?

Look, LA people have been bugging us to perform here on a weekend for a long time; the last local weekend show we did may have been as far back as 2003. So that adds to my bafflement. In fact, a month or two ago I had an email conversation with a few of the other guys in the group in which we were brainstorming strategies to bring the IJG to the “next level” economically, and at one point I argued as follows:

“In the case of LA, I suspect that more people would come out to see us here if we played weekend evenings instead of ‘school nights.’ At least the fans I know personally have told me this. It seems to be an unwritten rule: people just don’t come out to hear live non-pop music on weekday evenings in LA. I was astounded at the paltry audience that turned out to see Billy Childs, and him with LA Times coverage and a fucking grammy, for chrissakes [Childs played an Alternajazz triple bill with us on a Sunday back in February]. Jim Carney (who had prestige and honors to burn) had the same problem, sometimes even when he did play the [Jazz] Bakery. It’s one of the things about this town that drove him away. (Think too about the late Monday Evening series at LACMA: did you ever see more than 25 people there?)”

“If we don’t get a good turnout on April 21, then I’ll need to revisit this theory.”

Okay, so obviously, I need to revisit this theory. My new theory? It’s the “deeper problem” I hinted at above: LA doesn’t give a fuck about new or interesting music.

Disagree, LA? Prove me wrong, then.

Don’t misunderstand me: I am not throwing in the towel when it comes to cracking the mystery of producing a successful LA gig. I know there is a core group of local people who come to our shows on a rotating basis (thank you all), and I know there are others who have every intention of coming to a show soon, but haven't been able to because of life issues (a new kid, for example). But in a city this big, it is just statistically impossible that there aren’t more like-minded music fans out there. So this is not so much about hounding specific people to come and hear us; rather, I’m calling out a particular (and lethal) quality of LA “cultural life” (or what passes for it).

In any case, I’m not ready to follow my friend Jim Carney to NYC (yet), though time may reveal that he made the wiser choice. No, I’m not throwing in the towel -- I’m throwing down the gauntlet. LA likes to think of itself as a cultural tastemaker, and as a result, tends to think that it actually has good taste. (Isn’t that sort of backwards?) Again, I say: prove it. Demonstrate that you can live up to the hype, and that (to embellish an old cliche) you’re not so in love with the box that you can’t imagine anything outside of it. Otherwise, chances are good that there won’t be any community of live, acoustic performance at all in LA when the Big One hits; and what are you going to do for entertainment then?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Promote it, baby (part three)

Oh, and we made Tom Hull's "Jazz Prospecting" List:

"Industrial Jazz Group: Industrial Jazz a Go Go! (2004 [2006], Evander Music): The previous record by Andrew Durkin's group confused me with its intricate scoring and fancy counterpoint -- what's industrial about that? This one feels like they've had a Sex Mob transplant, but it's still on the fancy side. The most prominent sources, cited in "Apologies/Thanks To" along with Dion and Elmore James, are Perez Prado and Oliver Nelson -- that should give you a good idea what this sounds like, and not just for the three pieces with Spanish titles. Durkin plays piano, but the seven horns are so domineering you rarely hear him."

Promote it, baby (part two)

Just noticed this real nice LA Weekly writeup by IJG ally Greg Burk:

"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)."


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Promote it, baby

Just had to share this totally bitchen logo designed by Kio Griffith as part of the promotion for our upcoming Barnsdall gig.

(This Friday! Egad, I'd better get my shit together...)

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Great Grande Mothers

Had the best concert experience in a long while on Friday night, when I went to see the Grande Mothers at the Redcat Theater. Who are the Grande Mothers, you ask? Zappa alums Don Preston, Roy Estrada, and Napoleon Murphy Brock, plus Chris Garcia and Miroslav Tadic on drums and guitar, respectively.

The first set featured Preston, Estrada, and Brock performing Stravinsky's Histoire de Soldat with a killer chamber ensemble (featuring Dan Rosenboom, one of the esteemed members of my own group). The second set was a smorgasbord of Zappa tunes. The Stravinsky set was fun (in part because of the Mothers' bad acting), but the Zappa set, which I realized later went on for over an hour, seemed to fly by.

It was just beautiful to be able to hear this music (from the front row, no less) played in the spirit in which it was originally conceived, by some of the guys who were originally involved. And though it wasn't a flawless performance (it was the first of two nights), it had more balls and verve and energy (especially given that these guys are approaching geezerhood) than a lot of the newer music I've been hearing lately. Napoleon Murphy Brock is particularly amazing--there just seems to be no limit to his energy, and I don't think I ever got from the records how truly skilled he is as both a singer and a reed player. But Estrada too was a trip--what fun to hear that wacky falsetto of his live!

There is a tendency with posthumous performances of Zappa's music to err on the "prog rock" side of things--to go for the cleanness of the 80s groups as opposed to the rawer, sloppier sound of the Mothers. That's probably a good thing when it comes to the chamber or orchestral stuff (which was rarely well-performed in Zappa's lifetime), but in a rock or jazz context it's an approch that can be deadly. The Grande Mothers understand that even though Zappa never embraced rough musics like punk, he knew the value of musical rawness. And though the Redcat show clearly wasn't the sort of carnival experience that it probably would have been if Zappa had been involved, it was pretty damned close--which is good news for shmucks like me who never got to see the real McCoy when he was alive.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The proof is in the gumbo

Anyone who knows my music (even going back as far as Evelyn) knows that I am intrigued by odd time signatures: 3, 5, 7, and, more recently, 9, 11, 13, 15, and 17. In some ways this love of oddness goes against the current of jazz. In fact, some critics have complained that it makes what we do too "cerebral." But odd time has always felt "natural" to me, and in fact, like Zappa, I've always had more trouble playing in a square meter like 4/4.

So yesterday I heard this a Talk of the Nation report on Leah Chase, co-owner and chef at the famous New Orleans restaurant Dooky Chase, which was one of the many casualties of Katrina. Apparently Ms. Chase is gearing up to return to her (revamped) eatery at long last, and as she was describing her recipe for Gumbo Z'herbes, she declared matter-of-factly that one of the secrets to this dish's success was that she always put in an odd number of greens (7, 9, 11), because, don't you know, odd numbers are good luck.

I felt strangely vindicated.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Who knew? Kazoos

An appreciation of this, er, instrument (is that the word?) can be found here.

It's a little overblown, mayhap. Consider the last bit:

"The kazoo has turned into a toy for children and a funny little input in songs without meaning in a world without sense.

The kazoo has lost its influence and impact. It had its breakthrough in the 1920s but none of the great artists gave the kazoo a chance.

The kazoo was originally ment to be a sophisticated disguise of the voice. Like the mask worn by the actor. Now the kazoo weares a mask. A clown's mask- only to step out in the light when the serious musicians have left the stage. A fill in without impact.

It’s time to bring the kazoo back into the top of musical influence and significance.

It’s time to tear off the heavy mask of the kazoo."

Hmmmm. Indeed. Discuss.

(New fans of "The Job Song" might be amused to learn of the significant role the kazoo played in an earlier incarnation of that tune, thanks to the intrepid Ms. Danielle Franklin.)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

This Just In: Farts Inherently Funny

Actually, this one is not "just in"; however, I was reminded of it recently:

Sometime not too long ago, Thandie discovered what farts were (in both word and deed). Remarkably, even without any social context (right out of the gate, as it were), she found them rather humorous.

Like Shakespeare, little kids just know comedic gold when they see (hear / smell) it.

Feedback Man

I know I should provide some sort of context or explanation. Oh, well. Sue me.

Here's the link.


(Doesn't this also count as a kind of torture?)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Dumbing it down

I know I probably complain more than my share about the vacuity of current mainstream American culture--especially mainstream American music--but I don't think I realized the extent of the problem until I had a kid of my own and saw the sort of pablum that an energetic entrepreneur can unload on unwitting (or sometimes just witless) parents.

Exhibit A: Music Talking (er, excuse me, "Music TALKING") is a company that offers "fun, upbeat, original songs by original artists," which deliver "positive messages through character development topics." These folks get points for presenting "original recordings" (though for some reason Otis Redding's version of "Respect" doesn't count as original), as opposed to versions sung by a chorus of exceedingly treblefied kids. But the whole "fun," "upbeat," "positive" vibe seems to me to be a put-on motivated by an assumption that children can't handle interesting, or, dare I say it, instrumental music (i.e., music as music, sans lyrics). And I suspect the compilers in this case didn't get the irony or humor in Joe Walsh's "Life's Been Good to Me", which is more a sendup of the excesses of the 1970s pop music industry than a paean to good fortune. (If they had, this would probably have been a more worthwhile enterprise.)

Then there is the Jazz Baby series, which essentially takes standard kid fare like "Row Row Row Your Boat" and "Rock a Bye Baby," and filters it through the mad creativity of heavy hitters like Taj Mahal and Dr. John. Nice idea, sure. But after watching my not-yet-two-year-old daughter sit in rapt attention to the first fifteen minutes (or so) of Mingus's "Live at Montreux" concert DVD (longer than most adults, I daresay), I've got to disagree with the basic premise of the Jazz Baby people, that "Adult music was way too sophisticated for the kids [...]" Let's put it this way: if you ensconce your kids in a plastic world o' Disney, or subject them to numnuts like the Wiggles or Dan Zanes, then of course they're not going to "get it" when you introduce them to something more interesting later on (assuming you even bother). But I submit that kids can handle a lot more than we typically give them credit for. When we shield them from complexity, we're really just preparing them to be the sort of adults who get addicted to religion or patriotism.

(At the moment, Thandie's jukebox features the Talking Heads (her favorite by far), Howling Wolf, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Frank Zappa, Prince, Sarah Vaughn, Mozart, and Wendy Carlos.)

Monday, April 03, 2006

Why I love my wife

Reason no. 354.567: the other night while watching John Lennon's Jukebox, which featured a particularly vacuous manifestation of that ever-more-insipid former frontman for the Police (yeah, you know the one), she tossed off the following hilarious observation:

"Sting is the Keanu Reeves of music."

Oh, yeah. You know you want to marry her too.

(Need more proof that Sting sucks? Check out this list.)

(Drawing by Luke Pepper.)

Another one bites the dust

So the musical incarnation of the great barbeque bods blog is at last kaput -- bod was part of a somewhat undergroundish movement amongt bloggers to share old (mostly) out-of-print vinyl through the avenue of digital technology. His departure is a shame (and perhaps an early warning that the whole scene is going to collapse soon, thanks no doubt to the ever vigilant, ever pricky RIAA). But it also points to one of the paradoxes of the "digital age": when at last you can have access to all the music you ever wanted, who the fuck has time to listen to it? Check out the comments on bod's April 1 post (especially the string that starts with blip) for a brief discussion...