The Industrial Jazz Group has many things going for it. They have gutsy soloists that can intimate both Coleman Hawkins and Eric Dolphy in the same solo. Also, the band includes a very promising tunesmith in pianist Andrew Durkin. They demonstrate marvelous versatility as well, making references to Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, Cannonball Adderley, and many others. Finally, they can play very tight arrangements comfortably. The enigmatic name (considering there is nothing industrial or hardcore about this group) may pique curiosity as well. The irony of this misnomer typifies their post-modern sense of humor.
This band still has some growing up to do. Despite touching on many styles, there are places where the melting pot seems strained. Often they merely hint at different styles rather than exploring them. For example, the short avant-garde interludes provide some very interesting statements from the band. Unfortunately these only last about a minute and half each. It’s a shame they do not explore these somewhat free but still catchy melodies further. It hurts the continuity of the album.
"Daphne’s Dream City" hints strongly at mid-sixties Blue Note, especially Wayne Shorter. Mike Dodge on clarinet uncannily evokes Eric Dolphy on "The Man in the Godzilla Suit." "Lucky Duck" hints at hard bop in a Cannonball/ Nat Adderley vein. The middle section of this tune, however, exemplifies the Industrial Jazz Group’s somewhat uneasy relationship with free jazz. It feels as though they went free because they had nowhere else to go. The song picks up when it goes into more of an old time swing feel with a strong saxophone solo which even includes a quote from the theme to Taxi Driver.
The highlights of the album however come at two points where the band sounds most original, "Plus or Minus Eleven" and "Art and Commerce." These two cuts really highlight the group’s best points, i.e. strong writing and good ensemble work. The songs have changes similar to good pop music. Strong chords progressions that demand a knee jerk response where the heart sinks into the stomach. At times the poignantly titled "Art and Commerce" almost sounds like a power ballad.
This group may want to limit the silliness of its jazz appropriations, however. The sarcasm of their allusions kind of sours their intentions. "Eine Klein Nacht Music" just does not seem to have any purpose in a free jazz setting. If they evoke the jazz past in a less hectic way and emphasize their more unique qualities they may find success. They certainly possess the talent. In the music of both the late Roland Kirk and James Carter references to many older styles of jazz surface as well. However, their appropriations intend not only to express reverence for older styles but also to place the music in new, unexpected and purposeful contexts. Too often the Industrial Jazz Quartet seems a little reckless with their pastiche. They do come up with an interesting stew though. I look forward to their next album.
Personnel: Evan Francis-flute/alto sax, Mike Dodge-clarinet/tenor sax, Aaron Kohen-bass, Drew Hemwall-drums, Andrew Durkin-piano