All posts by Durkin

What we played, part one

Thanks to everyone who came out to our SoCal shows last week. I’m going to post a rundown of the music we played on both nights (both shows were basically the same), starting with set one, which was as follows:

1. “The Truth and the Abstract Blues” (from Industrial Jazz a Go Go!). At one point, our drummer, Dan, asked for some chord changes to be written into his part to help him keep track of the form of this piece, which was dropped from the set back in 2005. In the process of doing so I realized that “Truth” is actually pretty polytonal in spots. I guess the effect is almost like having three or four different blues records, in different keys but at the same tempo, playing at once. Oh yes, and the title is an obvious inversion of a favorite Oliver Nelson album.

2. “The Bee Dance” (unreleased, though you can hear a rough mix on the ReverbNation player widget, off to the right there). With any luck, this tune will appear on the next album. Though the composition dates from 2007, it wasn’t until 2008 that the arrangement fell into place. Based on one of our heavier grooves, this particular arrangement is adjusted slightly in order to make the Rimsky-Korsakov references a little shinier.

3. “Howl” (from LEEF). Like “Truth,” this one is heavily blues inflected. The title refers not so much to Alan Ginsberg (though I love Alan Ginsberg), but to Chester Burnett (aka Howlin’ Wolf), whose importance to me is somewhat greater: without him I might not even still be making music. It is probably easy enough for the other Wolf fans out there to disentangle the various lupine riffs that have been folded into the first part of this piece. Exhibit A: the trumpet line at about a minute in (again, you can check the version of “Howl” that is cued up in ReverbNation player if you’ve never heard the tune), adapted from the classic Roosevelt Sykes song “44,” of which my favorite version is still Wolf’s. The whole thing ends with a rather dissonant vaudeville two-step sort of thing. Because why not?

4. “The Seagull” (unreleased). One of two brand-new tunes we performed on this tour. There is some serious time displacement nonsense happening here (7/4 against 8/4, or some such thing). I’m not sure I understand it, actually, and I know for a fact that I can’t let my guard down for a second in performance, because there is so much to concentrate on, but I swear the whole thing makes sense once you know how it all fits together. Take away the time madness, and you’ll find the song is based on a pretty simple set of riffs, one of which is very firmly in the “surf sax” genre. You can hear some of the craziness excerpted in this lo-fi video (note how at various points my conducting doesn’t seem to match up with the actual piece — even though I swear it does). Also, this one was originally called “The Pelican,” until I realized it sounded much more like a seagull.

5. “Bajaja” (unreleased). Wow, this is yet another thing you can hear on our ReverbNation player (a veritable potpourri, that). This is a Go-Go era song, and it almost made it onto that album, but was dropped at the last minute, for reasons I don’t quite remember. The tune takes its cue from the Baja peninsula, SoCal culture in general, and Mingus’s New Tijuana Moods stuff. The last time we performed it was in 2005.

6. “The Star Chamber” (from The Star Chamber (duh!)). One of the harder tunes in our repertoire, not least because of the infamous letter E, in which one portion of the band is in 13/8 and another portion is in 13/4. “Chamber” dates from 2002, making it one of the older things in our current set. I think that the next time out I really need to re-insert the piano part (a la the album version), but for this last tour I was too busy trying to make sure everything fit together the way it was supposed to.

7. “Antennae Town” (unreleased). Another one that I hope to have on the next album. A rather sharp shift from “The Star Chamber” in the context of this set, as “Antennae” is an unabashedly melodic and singable tune. I have to say, this is one of my little babies.

8. “Tuxedo Trouble” (from City of Angles). Comically, the twitter pseudo-avatar “Jazz Nerds International” recently posted a tweet that refers to audiences sitting on their hands in the presence of a song that happened to be in 11/8. This tune is in 11/8! (Most of the time, anyway.) And yet people danced when we played it. I guess that’s more evidence that the IJG is not nerdy enough to be jazz nerds, but too nerdy to be jazz non-nerds. Great.

9. And what better way to end set one than with “Jazz-Pop Jerkoff” (unreleased, slated for next album)? Apparently this one caused a bit of a titter in the audience when I announced it, because of course we were performing as part of the Hammer’s “JazzPOP” series, and there was a gigantic sign that said “JazzPOP” hanging right above us as we played. I swear that was just a big old coincidence.

Next: set two.


photo credit: Steven Noreyko

Just when you thought it was safe to go out and hear a show… California, here we come.

On August 19 the Industrial Jazz Group will be at the beautiful Hammer Museum, at 10899 Wilshire Boulevard, in Los Angeles, as part of the museum’s JazzPOP series. If you don’t know the Hammer, check out their summer performance schedule, and you’ll get an idea of why this is such a cool gig. 8 PM, Free. Also: partially funded by Leonard Nimoy. (No kidding.)

On August 20 we return to a venue that has been a long-standing favorite for us: Dizzy’s in San Diego. Located in the San Diego Wine & Culinary Center, at 2nd and J Street. 8 PM, $15 ($10 for students). It’s not necessary to drink fine wine to enjoy our music, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to do so.

We’ll be debuting a slightly revised edition of the group at these shows:

Cory Wright (sax)
Damon Zick (sax)
Evan Francis (sax)
Brian Walsh (sax)
Mary-Sue Tobin (sax)

Dan Rosenboom (trumpet)
Josh Aguiar (trumpet)
Kris Tiner (trumpet)

Mike Richardson (trombone)
Ian Carroll (trombone)

Damian Erskine (bass)
Dan Schnelle (drums)

Tany Ling (vox)
Jill Knapp (vox)

Andrew Durkin (compositions, conducting, piano)

We’ll also be playing some new (and some new versions of old) IJG music. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.


Okay. It’s been a while since there has been any sort of official update as to what’s going on in the world of the Industrial Jazz Group.

The truth is that I’ve been keeping a lot of secrets from you. Here are a few of them.

Secret the first.

Chris Schlarb — of I Heart Lung fame, Asthmatic Kitty fame, and, well, too-many-credits-to-list-here fame — is going to produce the next IJG record. Which is very exciting to me, but maybe a little surprising to you, given that I have never before enlisted the services of a producer. And given too that Chris and I may seem, to the casual observer anyway, to be coming from slightly different musical vantage points.

To which I say: exactly. After all, I could sum up my entire artistic endeavor with the IJG as an attempt to bring congruity to incongruous things.

Although Chris and I actually share more common ground than you might think. Consider this:

If I’m completely honest, I will admit that I listen to far more music from the 70’s than any other decade. Between masterful albums from Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa, The Isley Brothers, Led Zeppelin, Donny Hathaway, Brian Eno, Steve Reich, and Devo, I get most of my nourishment from music that was made over 30 years ago.

Again: exactly. Me too! And those may have been the very sentences that sold me on this collaboration.

Anyway. Still no release date on this record but I’m guesstimating it’ll be out sometime this summer.

I honestly can’t wait.

Secret the second.

I recently hit upon the weird idea to record an album featuring PDX-based groups I like, playing re-arrangements of IJG tunes. Sort of in anticipation of the group’s ten-year anniversary (in 2011).

I have posted before on the comparative challenge of writing for groups that are not mine. How much more challenging it is (for me, anyway) to take something written specifically for one group, and to reconfigure it for another. And yet I suspect that may be the best way to determine if something you’ve written is actually any good. (Assuming that musical durability is a good thing.)

The first sessions, which will likely be spread out over the rest of the year, will feature three local artists, each one of them stellar: Damian Erskine, the Andrew Oliver Kora Band, and the Quadraphonnes. Again, I honestly can’t wait.

Secret the third

At long last, and after much deliberation, we have a winner in our video contest. Big congratulations are due to A. Minor for coming up with this truly psychedelic animated visual for “The Job Song”:

Visit the website of this fantastic Vermont-based filmmaker and artist for more on what she does. (I particularly recommend her images for our New England-based weird music brethren, Club d’Elf.)

Many thanks to everyone who participated in this contest. And again, kudos to our winner.

* * * * *

Okay, these are all the secrets I can bear to part with today. Others will follow hard upon, rest assured.

[Photo credit: LivefromAmsterdam]