I’m not sure why it took me so long to find out about the Industrial Jazz Group, but life is full of unintentionally delayed gratification. I’m also not sure why it took me so long to come across Amedei chocolate, Norma Winstone, the writing of James Salter or the psychic rewards of gardening.
In any case, Andrew Durkin–the Industrial Jazz Group’s leader, pianist and composer– intrigued me with an e-mail message asking if I would be willing to hear a CD by his band. So that the disc would not disappear into an impenetrable landscape of stacks of unbidden review copies, never to be seen again, I asked him to send it with a note reminding me to listen right away. What turns out to be the fifth CD by this whimsical, musical, fifteen-piece band showed up with the reminder. I listened right away, give or take a few days. Within moments, I was grinning, then laughing, then shaking my head at the complexity of the music and the skill with which the IJG performed it.
The humor is both subtle and slapstick, the musicianship consistently impressive. The band’s comprehensive web site reflects the wackiness of the music but also practices modern marketing by linking to a company store offering T-shirts, mugs, a mouse pad, a thong and a one-piece baby garment. Maybe that’s the industrial aspect of the band.
On the site, Durkin writes that he doesn’t see the value of lists of influences but admits to being under the sway of Frank Zappa, Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus. Unopposed to lists, I will point out that he might also have mentioned Stravinsky, Archie Shepp, Spike Jones, Carla Bley, Raymond Scott, Satie, the AACM, Charles Ives and the Marx Brothers. The CD that arrived is called — don’t ask me why — LEEF. According to the nearly unreadable
information on the CD envelope (cleverly printed in white on yellow) it was recorded “mostly live” in concert in Amsterdam. The singer, Jill Knapp, is excellent. I presume that it is she whom we see cavorting in the promotional video to which you will find a link on this page.
Fair warning: a couple of the tracks have language that is less shockingly foul than boringly and repetitively foul. It gives the kids a chance to talk dirty in public and doesn’t last long. (Perhaps I should have mentioned Lennie Bruce in that list of possible influences.)
But it’s the music that matters most. The music is good.