Douglas Martin uses the Force to eradicate fruit flies
There’s a reason why we tell you to #listentomorejazz. It’s a genre that doesn’t care much for nostalgia; it takes you in the moment like no other genre of music, primarily because so much of it is being arranged with free pockets open to improvisation. Occasionally it takes you to far off lands based in far off times or makes you see the wonder and history of your backyard. Seattle jazz quartet Industrial Revelation does both of those latter feats simultaneously; referencing both the mysticism of the fallen civilization referenced in the album title and the rich jazz tradition of the group’s home base.
But this ain’t your daddy’s Kenny G downtown alleyway wine bar jazz, or even your grandfather’s dusty record collection with Bumps Blackwell’s name written in fine print on the sleeve. Liberation & the Kingdom of Nri features a cornucopia of styles, from spoken-word-styled hip-hop (“Introduction: Mighty Nation”) to reimagined spaghetti-westerns (“I Jam 4U, My Love”) and rollicking folk-pop (“FunGirl”). There’s classic R&B like “First Dance,” urgent blowouts like “Man from Obibi,” and songs like “No Way Out But In,” which, given the right vocalist, sounds like it was produced by Just Blaze (on a goodly amount of hallucinogenic drugs).
Lately, some of the more innovative names in modern jazz have taken the path toward afro-futurism, and though Industrial Revelation are more classical when judged on that metric, it doesn’t mean they can’t reach astral peaks. “Exit From the Morass” contains a spacey build to a soaring climax; D’Vonne Lewis’ rolling drum fills congeal into a solid groove before building to a thunderous climax and release. “Wait. No. Sound.” splits open a shuffling groove and what’s left is an outpour of bright drones, followed by a mournful trumpet solo by Ahamefule J. Oulo and soothing keys from Josh Rawling.
Oulo’s trumpet features a variety of musical languages, able to switch from mournful to wild and blustery within the span of a few short bars (like in “Voice Memo: Night Love”). On “Old Man Soul,” the trumpet is lovelorn. On the dramatic “HYPED!,” it screams a battle cry. It commands the lead when it needs to and adds just a touch of atmosphere when it doesn’t. The same statement could be said for all of the band’s players; they let the song dictate its own pace, but know when switch gears and courses. “Ellison Ellington” is a pencil shaving over a minute long, but it throws down both the sort of gospel vamp you only hear in church when people are catching the holy ghost and a grungy, psychedelic bounce.
So many different styles are represented in Liberation & the Kingdom of Nri, but the foundation of it all is firmly planted in jazz. You can tell in how the upright bass plucks feels as percussive as the drums, how the trumpet can go from cotton-sheet smooth to as coarse as the back of your throat when you’ve taken a shot at the cheapest whiskey the gas station can offer. Those styles come in service to Industrial Revelation’s fast-and-loose sense of virtuosity and this particular double-album’s breadth of sprawl. Exploration is an ambitious feat in any realm but especially music; thankfully the players in Industrial Revelation have more than enough talent, knowledge, and gusto to traverse a startling amount of territory and never get lost along the way.