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.
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.
As I have written before, I don’t really consider myself a pianist. I get the job done, but that’s about it. Still, every once in a while I will publicly put myself in an extemporaneous pianistic situation, in order to blur my own sense of the distinctions between “composition” and “performace.” (Actually, this is something I’m doing more and more in my current side gig as a church organist, which often requires incidental music at the drop of a hat, forcing me to improvise my best approximation of a medieval sacred style.)
Most composers will agree that just sitting down and playing (and recording the performance) is an incredibly useful practice, because it inevitably reminds one of the unprocessed core of musical expression. And in my own case, that initial musical gesture is really where all of my music ultimately comes from. So I like to do this sort of thing a lot (though rarely in public).
One of the few times I’ve freely improvised within earshot of a “real studio” was back in 2003, during the session that ultimately produced The Star Chamber. One of the tunes on that record was a thing called “Schwarzkopf Takes the High ‘C’ for Flagstad,” which featured a prelude duet improvised by myself and master multi-woodwind-ist Cory Wright. (We’re pictured above during a 2002 rehearsal in Culver City.) At the session we recorded numerous versions of this prelude, because I wanted to have a bunch from which to choose. In the end, several takes of three different configurations — piano and flute, piano and clarinet, and piano and tenor — were preserved for posterity.
I recently came across (raw and unmixed copies of) these out-takes in my archive, and thought, what the hell? May as well offer them up to the internets. (I should also admit that I was at least partly inspired by the example of musician/writer/blogger Henry Powderly, who recently began posting some of his own (really quite beautiful) piano meditations.)
Overall, the set is sort of melancholy and charming, and maybe a little restless. Interestingly, most of the tunes on The Star Chamber are of the long-form persuasion, but these preludes are true miniatures. So maybe they are actually morphologically (and I guess philosophically) closer to the “less-is-more” aesthetic I’ve been exploring lately. In other ways, these “Schwarzkopf Duets” provide a pretty radical counterpoint to the edition of the IJG that is out and about these days.
Anyway, thanks to the marvel that is SoundCloud, you can listen to (or download) any of these duets (which all clock in at under two minutes) by clicking any of the play buttons below. Or, just go to my SoundCloud page, and listen to the whole set: click the top track, and they will all play automatically, albeit in reverse order. (Note that “Duet no. 9” is the one I ended up using in the album version of “Schwarzkopf.”)
Yeowza! Makes me want to create one of those moth-eaten tour T-shirts with all the dates on the back. (You know, the ones everyone had in high school, back in the 80s.)
Hope to see you at a show! Please tell your friends!
In order to celebrate this mammoth undertaking, we are going gangbusters with two totally rad contests! You could win prizes, fame, and fortune!
First, the IJG remix contest: remix our tune “Howl” (from the album LEEF), and you could win a $50 prize. Plus, your mix could be included on our next album! Details here. Deadline: December 31, 2009.
Second, the IJG video contest: make a video for our song “The Job Song” (also from LEEF), and you could win $250! Details here. Deadline: January 31, 2010.
Fundraising for the tour continues. If you have been waiting for a good time to contribute, wait no longer: now is a good time to contribute! We need all the help that we can get! Details here. And thanks!
As another one of my crazy schemes to get the word out about this silly band, I offer up the first official IJG remix contest. Ever.
(Credit where it’s due: this was at least partly inspired by a similar contest conducted by Chris Schlarb back in 2006.)
The song I selected for the remix treatment is a “perennial favorite” (if such words even obtain in the land of Industrial Jazz) from our LEEF album: “Howl.” (If you have never heard it before, you can grab it from the ReverbNation player embedded there on your right.)
What we have here, first, is a breakout of every track that went into creating the Frankenstein version of the tune that actually ended up on the album. As explained in the album’s liner notes, said version was actually a combination of live Bimhuis tracks, plus a bit of studio sweetening (from a multi-tracked session that preceded the Bimhuis show). All of the tracks (except drums) are mono, and are taken from the mix that I made at home before lugging the entire session to engineer Nick Moon. Voila:
And just because I know (believe me, I know) how challenging it can be to mix that many tracks, and just because I know you may prefer to work with something more, uh, scaled down, I’m going to provide some simple stems as well:
*** UPDATE! *** In response to several requests for higher quality source material, I have now uploaded AIFFs of all tracks here. (And if you prefer WAVs, I believe that iTunes can do your conversion job.)
*** ANOTHER UPDATE! *** AIFFs have been re-upped here. Should be live until the deadline, but let me know if there are any more problems.
Total personnel (live + studio): Beth Schenck, Cory Wright, Evan Francis, Brian Walsh, Katharina Thomsen, Josh Sinton, Ariel Alexander, Damon Zick, Ryan Perez-Daple (saxes); Dan Rosenboom, Phil Rodriguez, Andre Canniere (trumpet); James Hirschfeld, Wolter Wierbos, Ron Christian, Mike Richardson (bone); Dan Schnelle (drums); Oliver Newell (bass); Jill Knapp (vox).
So. What are the specifics of this contest?
Consider it this way: I’m not particularly interested in hearing another mix of “Howl” that attempts to present the tune for “what it is,” and leaves the compositional elements more or less intact. What I am interested in is a true remix, something that re-imagines (indeed, improvises upon) the tune — say, by filling it out with some new voices, or by slicing and dicing its roadmap, or by mashing it up with the latest Christina Aguilera hit. You probably know my aesthetic by now — the crazier, and the more creative, the better.
We (the Industrial Jazz Group) will be selecting a winner based on that set of (admittedly vague) criteria. Said winner will receive $50, and will be given the option (if he or she so chooses) of having their creation included as a bonus track on the next Industrial Jazz Group recording (due out in 2010). He or she will also get a copy of said recording.
Need a deadline? Okay. How about we say that all entries are due by 11:59 PM on December 31 of this year (2009)? *** UPDATE! *** The deadline has been extended to 11:59 PM on January 31, 2010. You get a whole extra month! (Don’t you wish everyone was that flexible?)
(For the curious, entries will be posted in this blog space upon submission — barring any objections, of course.)
Questions and submissions can be beamed (or hurled) at the following email addy: industrialjazzgroup (at) gmail (dot) com.