Few categorical terms inspire as much trepidation among listeners as "avant-garde," and it is decidedly difficult to market music labeled as such. Even so, many artists on the fringe have tempered their envelope-pushing works with material that could be accused of having top-forty aspirations. It is rare indeed to discover someone capable of writing music that is both forward-thinking and accessible to virtually anyone; Industrial Jazz Group's Andrew Durkin is one such composer.
Now entering its seventh year, IJG is an anything-goes ensemble with a wildly unstable roster. The name might draw associations with "industrial" rock bands like Nine Inch Nails or Throbbing Gristle, but no such connection exists. The tag is nevertheless appropriate: industrial revolutions are often marked by promising new means of large-scale production, and for all its innovative qualities, IJG's fourth studio effort could easily be marketed to audiences across the spectrum.
The title and artwork of Industrial Jazz a Go Go! suggest something lightweight, perhaps retro. To be sure, the disc draws heavily from the past; notwithstanding Durkin's assimilation of post-bop, he is the spiritual descendent of adventurous bandleaders like Raymond Scott and Spike Jones. However, Durkin's work achieves something light years beyond neo-exotica.
Industrial Jazz a Go Go! treads the line between parody and homage, exploiting more styles and genres than can be recounted here. For starters, the effect of juxtaposing goofy 1950s rock 'n' roll with 1970s wah-wah funk on "The Truth and the Abstract Blues" can only be described as chronological schizophrenia. Such eclecticism is not an end in itself; Durkin's stately melodies keep the disc from sliding into mere pastiche. Even so, he may have a lawsuit on his hands if the author of the Family Feud theme hears "Baby, Shake That Thing."
IJG's current lineup is equipped with all the technique and good humor needed to bring the bandleader's zany charts to life. Not to discredit the sturdy rhythm section, some of the album's greatest thrills come when they drop out, resulting in moments of horn-centric beauty on "Cannon Indie" and "El Grupo de Jazz Industriale."
For those who are discouraged by the institutionalization of jazz, Industrial Jazz Group may provide a breath of fresh air. There will always be a few know-it-alls around to proclaim that jazz is dead, irrelevant, or just plain boring. Fans of the genre would do well to tune into Industrial Jazz a Go Go!, in case they are ever urged to set the record straight.
Doo Wha?; Elmore Was Here; Bandoleero, Part One; Bandoleero, Part Two; The Truth and the Abstract Blues; Cannon Indie; El Grupo De Jazz Industriale; Baby, Shake That Thing.
Andrew Durkin: piano, compositions, percussion; Aaron Kohen: bass; Joe Berardi: drums; Damon Zick: saxophones; Cory Wright: saxophones; Jason Mears: alto sax; Brian Walsh: tenor sax; Phil Rodriguez: trumpet; Kris Tiner: trumpet; Shaunte Palmer: trombone; Robert Jacobson: guitar.
Editor of the Clifford Brown video documentary Brownie Speaks, Brad Glanden holds a bachelor's degree in Music Composition from The University of the Arts--in fact, he holds it every night, while he sleeps.