Friday, May 29, 2009

Our work and why we do it

Honestly, sometimes I get a bigger kick out of reading student reviews of the IJG than I do the sort of (often) self-important prose that passes for music criticism these days. Not that I have any lasting grudge against self-important prose -- I spew enough of it into the world myself. But, from the point of view of a bandleader who is tryin' to do somethin' different, it's refreshing every once in a while (or even more frequently than that!) to step out of the high-minded discourse community of music critics, and see what kind of impression you're making on the youth of the world.

(Of course I'm not the only one who feels this way.)

Witness this nice piece written by Manny Beltran, one of the attendees at our Bakersfield show back in April (pictured above with Jill Knapp and Tany Ling):

"Oh crap here we go!" these are the opening words sung by Jill Knapp, one of the two singers of The Industrial Jazz Group. And "here we go" is right: the 11-piece horn section is adorned with random hats that range from a wizard's hat to a lobster head. The trombonist, Mike Richardson, did not wear a hat; instead he appears on stage wearing nothing but a nude color speedo.

But don't let the Josie and the Pussycat ears, the metallic alien outfit or any of the of-the-wall hats fool you. Underneath the geeky and funky hats are musicians, skilled musician with tons of energy ready to be unleashed into the crowd.

The Industrial Jazz Group is the brain child of Andrew Durkin. He formed the band in the spring of 2000 as a straight forward jazz quintet that over the years evolved to what he calls the "big band monstrosity."

Durkin's influences early on were Frank Zappa, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk and Raymond Scott just to name a few. He played the classical piano as a kid and turned to rock as teen, then as he became older and wiser began listening to more jazz.

The 17 piece eccentric ensemble plays Durkin's loose form of jazz. His arrangements change tempos and styles going from swing to waltz to sultry latin flavors all in the same song. An entertaining style of jazz that Jill feels is more accessible to audiences that don't normally listen to the genre. "Jazz isn't scary," she exclaims.

The two vocalists, Knapp and Tany Ling would prefer to be known as part of the band as opposed to lead singers. Durkin's songs have few "true" lyrics, instead the vocalists use their voices as instruments, humming or making sound effects or repeating phrases such as "why I oughta!", "jazz pop jerk offs!" or "diarrhea!". And while the brass section goes in and out of short solos or whirlwind arrangements, you will find Knapp and Ling in funny quasi-synchronized dances. But the ladies can't have all the fun dancing the night away, so occasionally the horn section will do their own renditions of what can only be assumed is dancing. And as the saying goes they "dance like nobody is watching."

All these antics are to connect with the audience and get them dancing and the resulting effect is a reciprocal one. The more the crowd gets into the show and dances, the more energy the band gives back. Knapp admits that playing in the Dore Theatre is a challenge considering the audience is seated and had no room to dance. But it isn't hard to see heads and shoulders swaying rhythmically to the music along with the faint sound of tapping feet. During one song, Ling ran off the stage and began to dance and clap having the audience clap along with her.

Bassist Oliver Newell describes his experience with the band as "quite different from any other band" he's been in. He adds, "it's wonderfully excessive post-modernism."

The band also has a local resident of Bakersfield, Kris Tiner. He has been with the band for seven years and he teaches music part-time at Bakersfield College and Cal State Bakersfield. He says of Durkin, called by some band members the evil genius, concerning the loose environment, "He lets people do what you want to do." This atmosphere seems to breed love amongst the musicians. Knapp can attest to this, "I have a crush on the band (as a whole). It's a love."

When asked if they wanted to add anything else Mike Richardson said, "Oliver trains albino rats" and Knapp adds, "Richardson has his way with watermelons." Can't you feel the love?

Described by its members as a big party, The Industrial Jazz Group had a big party on Friday night and everyone in attendance danced, laughed and had a great time.

Who could ask for anything more? Thanks, Manny!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I should just shut my mouth

But sometimes I go on a commenting spree. Totally uncalled for, I know. I'm sorry!

Here's today's. The "critic" referred to herein is a radio listener who complained loudly to a jazz DJ who dared to play a Steely Dan song. Oy!

Music (one of the most social art forms if you ask me) thrives on cross-pollination and hybridization. What we call “American music” today would not exist if previous advocates of musical purity had had their way. I suspect that, a hundred years ago, your critic would have most likely been working to *prevent the development of jazz in the first place*. Oh, the irony!

Often people who take the purist view feel they are defending something that is in danger of disappearing. So your critic may be worried that “traditional” or “classic” jazz is dying, and that a DJ’s gesture of eclecticism (whatever its motivation) only makes that death more imminent. However, with our increasingly niche-driven culture, in which digital technology and social networking make it possible for fans of even the most obscure art form to connect and celebrate it, this seems to me to be a less and less sustainable argument. Sure, there may never be as many “pure” jazz fans as there are Steely Dan fans (though who knows?), but the audience for the former will never disappear.

Peeling away the layers, I personally think your critic’s comments have very little to do with music per se. He / she has gone way beyond simply marveling at the wonderful variety of human taste, and being mildly inconvenienced by that variety for a few minutes. Instead, he / she seems driven by a (alas, very human) need to proclaim membership in a given club. It almost doesn’t matter what the club is *for*…

In response to this post.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Question of the day

Does a poorly programmed summer jazz festival, especially one where prohibitively-priced performances are somewhat secondary to the outdoor picnicking, contribute to a public perception of jazz as "sofa art"?

I'm waving my hand wildly. Oh! Oh! Oh! I know! I know! Call on me!

(Via the (already pretty fucking awesome) new blog on the block: A Blog Supreme.)

Friday, May 22, 2009

"I will!" said the advertiser.

Via Hypebot, this:

ReverbNation today announced that about 1000 of its almost 400,000 artist members will be eligible to participate in a new revenue generating Sponsored Songs program. The initiative makes it possible to tap into the kind of major brand relationships that have typically been elusive for unsigned and indie talent.

“Traditionally the music business has been synonymous with the record business where the lion’s share of revenue came from selling music. With reduced emphasis on music sales, the music business must develop new revenue streams that leverage the artist as a brand,” Michael Doernberg, CEO of ReverbNation said in a statement. ReverbNation will pay participating musicians $.50 per free download with each track incorporating a small section of branded messaging within the digital cover art displayed every time the song is played.

The downloads, which the company confirmed to Hypebot will be in the MP3 and M4A formats, will be offered to fans on a set of branded landing pages. When a fan initiates a download, patent pending technology merges the brand's message into the digital cover art and songs are tracked as they are passed from fan to fan.

Kinda cool, and kinda creepy, all at once!

Who's gonna buy your cow if you give the moo away for free?

(Fair warning: I guess I'm in a phase of IJG stock-taking and re-strategizing these days. Making plans for the fall, and for the next record. You may see more music business-related posts here in the weeks ahead.)

Seeing Lars Ulrich on the Rachel Maddow Show a few weeks ago really brought me back.

Not back to my Metallica-loving high school days -- I never really had a Metallica period, though I would eventually "enjoy" this when it came out many years later -- but to the pre-21st century brouhaha these fellas stirred up over the issue of copyright. Apparently, that particular struggle will never end, but in any case, it has been a while, I think, since Metallica has been the public face of the anti-music-trading backlash. Whatever you think of the band, it was nice to see an articulate musician make an appearance on a national news show to talk (mostly) politics.

Though I have always wanted to monetize the IJG (that sounds so corporate, but all it means is that I want to make a living at this), I have also always been a big fan of free. So I never understood the outrage Metallica collectively expressed over the copyright issue (well, "never," at least until I saw the movie and realized how truly outsized are the egos involved). To me, the cost of losing potential fans (many of whom, for various reasons, would (especially in light of increasingly narrow radio formats) never have even heard the band without some sort of music-trading "counter-economy" -- and many of whom, once they had heard the band through said counter-economy, could easily be converted into true fans, who would be willing to spend money on each new release) that cost seemed to greatly outweigh the cost of a few missed sales among those listeners who would never be turned on to the band anyway.

Of course, it is possible to take this idea too far. In my own career, I may have erred a little too much on the side of free -- to the extent that, once upon a time, it didn't take much prodding for me to give away many more freebie IJG discs than I should have. Especially with the first few albums, I handed them out by the dozens to media folks, or to friends, or, basically, to almost anyone. And at every opportunity, I facilitated free downloads of high-quality mp3s. I was genuinely taken aback when I read Derek Sivers' remark (on some listserv somewhere) that, back when he was making records, he wouldn't even give his Mom a freebie. At the time that seemed a tad harsh.

But now I think he was partly right -- or at least that there is a savvier approach than giving away as many discs as you can and hoping somebody buys the rest. Alas (of course): the situation is more complex. And while "free" has been a pretty hip mantra for the last decade (at least), it seems that some folks are now striving for that greater complexity. Consider this:

The biggest idea I came out of SxSW with this year was that free is dead. Over. Overdone. We killed it. Because so much is free online, we expect it; where’s the value in that? [...] Sure, giving stuff away for free is nice. People like it. And these days, you have to do it just to keep up with the Joneses. But keeping up doesn’t get you ahead. And obviously free doesn’t exactly pay the bills unless you’re Trent Reznor or Radiohead, i.e. established.

As I think about the next IJG record (for which many of the basic tracks already completed), and potential new approaches to releasing it, I'm wondering: are actual, physical CDs luxury items now?

Thursday, May 21, 2009


My fifth-graders just completed their first compositions, and here are a few of the titles they came up with:

"Rockin' Sockin' Pie"
"Time Savors"
"The Vampire"
"Booger Bot Theme Song"
"The Kornhouse Way"
"Irish Leprechaun" (by the Irish Clover Band)
"My Lobster Cake"
"Cornpuff Rock!"
"Cheere Cheere for Old Oregon"
"NY City Night"

I haven't yet figured out whether or not I am doing them a disservice by encouraging them to compose...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Chicken in a box

Shortly after we picked her up at the post office, and shortly before we released her (and her sister) into our yard.

I feel like I'm going to have to write a chicken-themed song soon.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Maybe I can use it as a tour vehicle

Here's a spam message I've never seen before (must be new, cuz it made it past the filter):

Directly from our yard, we are please to offer you following for immediate transaction:

- M/V TONG YU, 1002dwt Chemical Tanker (Built 1988 in Japan), USD 680,000
- M/V DONG HANG, 1600dwt Container General Cargo Vessel (Built 1993 in China), USD 850,000
- M/V ZI HANG, 1983dwt Gearless Cargo Vesse (built 1992, Japan), USD 1,000,000

- 7,500dwt Oil Tanker (Built Nov, 2008 in China), USD 9,500,000
- 6740dwt Chemical Tanker (Built Nov, 2008 in China), USD 11,000,000
- 10,800dwt Bulk carrier(Built 2009 in China), USD 9,500,000

- 9000dwt MPP (Built Sept, 2009 in China), USD 18,000,000
- 17,000dwt crude/product oil tanker(Built May, 2009 in China) , USD 23,000,000
- 19,800dwt Bulk carrier(Built May, 2009 in China), USD 17,500,000
- 23,800dwt Bulk carrier(Built May, 2009 in China), USD 23,000,000
- 32,000dwt Bulk carrier(Built May, 2009 in China), USD 28,000,000
- 38,000dwt Bulk carrier(Built May, 2009 in China), USD 35,000,000

Feel free to drop us an email or call for any question.

Well, I can honestly say that I have a shitload of questions. And I must admit that the idea of the IJG doing a world tour in a used chemical tanker has a certain appeal...

Monday, May 18, 2009

I love stuff (a stream of consciousness)

Mostly musical stuff, of course (although I did collect bottle caps as a kid). I love the artifacts (CDs, LPs, books) of my addiction.

I know it seems messy to you. But, in the words of WB: "what else is this collection but a disorder to which habit has accommodated itself to such an extent that it can appear as order?"

Yes, I love collecting, and (somewhat related) I love cataloguing my own compositions. (I love making lists of the tunes I've finished. It gives a concrete quality to the accomplishment.)

And yet increasingly I find this approach compelling too. Enough to create a fairly significant level of cognitive dissonance.

Every item is now judged harshly as a major burden that better have a damn good explanation why I should carry it around with me everywhere as I travel.

Of course, I wonder if one has to have been incredibly successful in the "material world" (as the good Mr. Sivers no doubt has) before one can come to this "enlightened" perspective.

Also of course, at some point in the near future we might not even be having this debate:

Very likely, in the near future, I won't "own" any music, or books, or movies. Instead I will have immediate access to all music, all books, all movies using an always-on service, via a subscription fee or tax. I won't buy – as in make a decision to own -- any individual music or books because I can simply request to see or hear them on demand from the stream of ALL. I may pay for them in bulk but I won't own them. The request to enjoy a work is thus separated from the more complicated choice of whether I want to "own" it. I can consume a movie, music or book without having to decide or follow up on ownership.

Maybe the real question is whether it is possible for we humans to "value" something that we don't actually "own."

Or maybe that's a stupid question, I dunno.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Monday, May 11, 2009

The circle of life, or something

My 4-year-old daughter helps our 94-year-old neighbor with his garden:

I'm still trying to figure out what this guy's longetivity secret is.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

All the muthas in the house say yeah

SNL steals my shit:

Well, conceptually, anyway. (It's cool, guys, I won't sue ya.)

Here's the IJG's take on the subject:

It's a bit more lo-fi, I guess. With any luck, a snazzier, easier-to-hear version will end up on the new album.

The lyric, for those of you who are interested in such things, can be found here. Also the personnel.

Anything can be anything!

Wonkette never lets me down:

You may have read on the Internet that this week’s big movie release is the “new” original Star Trek movie, and it is going to make millions of dollars. It is the latest manifestation of Hollywood studios’ race to abandon all creativity: after a popular movie series like Batman or Superman has run its course, just start over and make the first one again. Critics then praise the director’s “new vision,” and political writers note that all of the characters are famous politicians, secretly, in real life. Everyone remembers last year’s important Wall Street Journal column, “George Bush Jr. Is The Bat Man.” This year’s version? “Barack Obama is the Spock.” Steady yourself…

This is followed by two generous excerpts from articles in Newsweek and Salon, both of which make the aforementioned comparison.

But my favorite part comes in the wake of all this, with NewsBusters' critique of the Newsweek reading. NewBusters:

Finally, we get Bill Clinton compared to the scarred and withered version of Star Trek’s Captain Pike, the man that commanded the Enterprise before Captain Kirk did in the TV series. Bill Clinton is like Pike because he was “so talented, so promising… so damaged.” And this too is a bad analogy. Pike is nothing like the disloyal, womanizing Clinton. All Captain Pike fans should be telling Newsweek to shove it.


“All Captain Pike fans” probably have bigger issues to deal with than the Newsweek magazine.

Keep it coming, Internet!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Gigs you want to go to

If you don't know who Diane Moser is, you should.

Check the link while I cut to the chase: she's dealing with some health issues, and -- surprise! As a professional jazz composer / pianist / bandleader, she is in no position to handle the costs alone.

There is a blog where you can donate, and also where you can learn about the two benefit concerts that are happening next week (May 11 at Trumpets in Montclair, NJ; and May 12 at our own beloved Dizzy's in San Diego, CA).

Did you see some of the folks on board for these gigs?

Again, if you don't know Ms. Moser, you should (I myself met her the first time the IJG toured the east coast, in 2005 -- she offered a lot of helpful advice that facilitated the experience for me). A glimpse of her personality comes through in this blog post:

At some point in my hospital stay, I had an echocardiogram-my first one ever-and I thought it was pretty cool-the sound it made. So when the cardiologist came in after wards-I asked him if I could get the "music" from that echocardiogram. Obviously he looked at me with a funny look on his face (by the way-I think he looks like Peter Sellers and my oncologist thinks he looks like Stanley Tucci)-so I told him I was a composer, and I was wondering if they could burn a cd with the sounds from my echocarigram test-becuase I wanted to use it in a composition.

She's an awesome lady. Help her out, fer crissakes.

* * * * *

If you don't know who Darcy James Argue is, you should.

But who am I kidding? You do know Darcy (and his band, Secret Society) by now, don't you?

What's that, you say? You don't read Newsweek? Well, fuck you, then.

But seriously, the CD release show for the much-anticipated debut recording from this totally bitchen ensemble is tonight. If you still need convincing, here's the streaming version.

Personally, I've been convinced for some time now. Though I have to say that checking out the new recordings online is a bit like being introduced to the band all over again -- especially since, by the sound of it, Darcy had the good sense to recognize that the studio itself is, basically, another instrument. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think that's kind of a rare thing in jazz. Anyway, the results are very tasty. Very tasty indeed.

Don't listen to my occasional griping: it's a really exciting time to be in this damned business.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Bees rock

My wife recently talked me into getting chickens (I swear, two hens are on a cross-country trip to our house, even as I type). Someday I hope to talk her into getting bees.

In the meantime I may just have to be satisfied with giving the little buggers as a gift.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

What do Superman, Orson Welles, and Mars have in common?

Apparently, this comic -- which I am sure I read as a kid but am now rediscovering in the process of introducing Thandie to various superheroes.

You've got to click to see the fine print, but here's part of it:

What on earth, or should we say, "what on Mars" is Orson Welles doing wearing that outlandish, ancient costume, and duelling with the fantastic huge-headed inhabitants o another planet? It all started in Italy, when the film "Black Magic," starring Orson Welles, was being filmed. Then a firecracker series of fantastic events blasted Orson Welles to Mars! Here he found himself fighting frantically to warn the world of a Martian invasion, this time a real one!

War of the Worlds has the synopsis:

The story featuring Orson Welles is called "Black Magic On Mars" and this does offer a clue that Welles or his publicists had a hand in the creation of the comic, for just as is recounted in the comic book, Welles was in Italy at the time, acting in a movie called "Black Magic". So this may well have been an early piece of creative cross-promotion, or equally plausible, the writer may just have read about Welles' project and decided to incorporate it. The story opens in Italy, with Welles atop a rooftop in the period costume of 18th century France, and just as in the climax of the film, Welles takes a fatal plunge.

Dusting himself off, Welles and his co-star Nancy Guild (she also was in the film playing Marie Antoinette), set off to attend a fancy dress party in their costumes. Driving through the Alps, they suddenly come across a rocket ship with its hatch open. As any fan of the science fiction of the period will know, this was a pretty common occurrence. Absent minded scientists were always building rocket ships in obscure locations and leaving the door open, and sure enough, curiosity gets the better of Welles, and he finds himself trapped in the rocket as it sets off for Mars.

Two hours later (that was some rocket engine), and Welles is stepping out onto the surface of Mars, where he is swiftly assailed by the Martians and brought before their leader, the Great Martler. The Martians speak English and goose step about like Nazi's, for Martler is an admirer of Hitler and has modelled his dictatorship after Nazi Germany, in which case, why don't they speak German? This linguistic peculiarity aside, Welles has arrived on the eve of a Martian invasion, and turning down Martler's offer of a job as propaganda minister on the soon to be conquered Earth, he uses his prop sword to seize control of a radio and broadcast a warning. Of course no one believes a word of it back on Earth, for as the listeners say, Welles has fooled America once before with his earlier broadcast. But Superman is not about to take any chances and speeds off to Mars, arriving just in time to prevent Welles getting disintegrated for his troubles.

The story goes into overdrive from here on, with Superman facing a fleet of one hundred thousand warships. It's a mighty challenge even for the Man Of Steel, but Orson has a plan, and a pretty insane one at that. Plucking one of the moons of Mars from its orbit, Superman fashions a slingshot from the thousands of miles of runways used to launch the fleet. Wrapping it round the moon, he sends it careering into the path of the invasion fleet, where they are helplessly snagged by its gravity and go harmlessly into orbit about it. Welles then sits a comatose Martler on his knee and performs an impromptu ventriloquism act to persuade his followers to give up on the plan of conquest. The Earth is saved, but poor Orson will never be believed.

So not the most realistic story imaginable, but enormous fun in its simplistic disregard of the laws of physics and nature.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

RIP Dom DeLuise

The words were so alike

It was a crappy morning until I saw this typo in my inbox, c/o

"We've noticed that customers who have purchased or rated Love Cry by Spyro Gyra have also purchased Live On The Riviera by Albert Ayler."

Because, 1. you know, I love Spyro Gyra, and have actually purchased albums by them from -- said albums help me feel all tropical and shit; and 2. Albert Ayler and Spyro Gyra are so very similar. Ayler was a terribly, terribly big influence on the Spyros...

(Wow, that was quite snark-tastic, even for me. Sorry, it was a long night...)

Friday, May 01, 2009

You're never alone with a saxophone

As if you *need* another version of this one.

In any case, this is the rendition we did at Dizzy's in San Diego (April 5, 2009), which I post here because of our very special sub: Jim Romeo sitting in for Damon Zick on tenor sax. Since I didn't know Jim would be playing with us until a few minutes before the gig, I didn't have time to revise this intro to include his name. But Jill and Tany (with some help from the band and the audience) took the liberty of revising it on the fly, and the result is particularly, gratifyingly silly.

(I also neglected to mention, with respect to the other video of this tune, that the Dore version included the immortal line "Damon Zick / he's such a prick!" [Editor's note: not "suck a prick," as I originally had it in this post -- though that would have been funny too. Thanks to TL for catching that typo.] I really want to take credit for that -- it did occur to me to write it in the first place, since it seems so inevitable, and it rolls off the tongue so effortlessly. But its actual inclusion was Tany Ling's idea.)

Anyway, for those of you running original big bands in other parts of the country: you really want to find yourselves someone like Jim. He has been pretty much single-handedly responsible for our last four or five San Diego trips -- overseeing such mundane details as booking the gigs, making sure the band gets paid, taking the band out to lunch, sitting in with us at the last minute, and so on. For the record: I really wish there were more cats like him in this damned business.

Footage by Matt Lichtenwalner; camera c/o Tany Ling.

Vocals: Jill Knapp and Tany Ling.