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Industrial Jazz Group: The Star Chamber

Rex  Butters By

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The Industrial Jazz Group continues to fight the odds on maintaining a large band, allowing resident composer Andrew Durkin a vehicle for his imaginative flights. Drawing on an eclectic core of influences including Mingus, Zappa, Messiaen, and Giuffre, Durkin writes head-snapping charts unafraid to make bold statements and easy jokes. The Group's all-star lineup, including Beth Schenk, Kris Tiner, Cory Wright, and Aaron Cohen, gives an enthusiastic, well-rehearsed performance, bringing Durkin's exotic fantasies to life.

The title track charges forward with cascading fanfares led by Durkin's pounding piano. The ensemble plays through variations on the theme until a time and atmosphere change conjures a straight-ahead groove with a quartet led by a hot blue trumpet. A brief fugue interlude leads them back to the theme and out. A bright, oddly timed amusement, "A Thousand Times No"? reels and careens, growing teeth and ending with Aaron McClendon's four-handed drum solo.

A rubbery figure bounces around the horns to open "Drippy."? Sweet sax arrangements over a ska beat follow, and then the ensemble blows open. Cohen explores the bass implications, leading to a sultry tenor solo that Wright takes from comfy warm to nail gun. "Gross Fugue"? opens with Beth Schenk and Evan Fronos setting flutes on baroque and beyond, the ensemble quickly joining for a punchier, brassier take. After a loose improvisational interlude, the mood changes to a languid Spanish theme with Gorrell Smith on trombone.

"Little Owen"? sneaks in on sly alto sax, Cohen and McClendon roiling. A blue sax arrangement augments improvising brass. After some oddly swinging transitions, the company arrives in New Orleans. The alto continues to lead until Wright takes over on tenor. A pretty flute and piano duet opens "Schwarzkopf Takes the 'C' For Flagstad."? An Ellingtonian insistence grips the group, released by a slash-and-burn Tiner solo. A torrid Eastern interlude dissolves into flutes and duck calls. A heaving groove backs more virtuoso trumpet, and a hopeful arrangement caps it. "Mamas, Don't let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboy-Presidents"? ends the session with a breezy blow fest. The tempo slows to reveal stately, towering horns dissolving into a trio of trumpet, alto, and piano. Durkin's piano grows into a dominant old west saloon mode, with Smith brawling on trombone. The piece ends with a portentous minor segment.

Star Chamber finds the Industrial Jazz Group energetically spreading raucous, infectious fun; this recorded performance effectively captures some of the color of their live shows.


Track Listing: The Star Chamber; A Thousand Times; Drippy; Gross Fugue; Little Owen; Schwartzkopf Takes the "C" for Flagstad; Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboy Presidents.

Personnel: Evan Fronos, alto sax, flute; Cory Wright, tenor and soprano sax, clarinet; Beth Schenk, alto and soprano sax, flute; Kris Tiner, trumpet; Phil Rodriguez, trumpet; Gorrell Smith, trombone; Aaron McClendon, drums; Aaron Cohen, bass; Andrew Durkin, piano, conductor, composer.

Title: The Star Chamber | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Innova Recordings

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