Top 10 Soul Bands
Written by Jacob Uitti for D List
Seattle is one of the most soulful and funkiest cities in the country, especially musically. We have a plethora of bands beautifully bearing their hearts, minds and dancing feet to packed audiences all around town and beyond. As a result, we thought it best to cull some of these amazing artists and bands in one list, to share their talents all together. So, without further ado, here is a list of the top 10 to help you find your soul in Seattle.
Industrial Revelation: Their LP, Oak Head (produced by Dave Abramson), was one of the best albums to come from the town in 2013. This Seattle four-piece, comprised of D’Vonne Lewis, Evan Flory-Barnes, Ahamefule J. Oluo and Josh Rawlings, have so much musical experience under their belts it’s mystifying. Evan and Josh played on M&RL’s The Heist as two members of The Teaching, Aham’s pop opera, “Now I’m Fine,” received many accolades and Lewis has drummed with just about every musician in the city. If I were to pick one band to keep watching from here on out it would be I.R.
Article by Jonathan Zwickle with City Arts
The Industrial Revelation that played Neumos last night wasn’t the Industrial Revelation that played the Triple Door in 2007 or the Industrial Revelation that played the Comet two years ago. Today’s Industrial Revelation is one of the most formidable musical forces in a city full of them. How many bands in town have even been together for that long? I can think of only a handful and none has such a singular voice as IR. They’ve developed the profound cohesion attainable only by a veteran group of collaborators. Their hard-swinging, big-feeling garage jazz is the most vital sound in Seattle right now.
Last night at Neumos they played for over an hour and the crowd—young dudes fist-pumping, young women wooing, two gray-bearded jazzbo elders, people who saw IR at Doe Bay last summer—they wanted more. Along the way the band veered from hip-hop-inflected funk to soft-focus balladry to Bitches Brew-esque fusion groove outre psuedo-classical grandeur. Their best songs leave behind genre altogether and rise into that lustrous cloud of composition and improvisation—that mode of supraliminal expression—that Charles Mingus described in the liner notes of Let My Children Hear Music:
Each jazz musician when he takes a horn in his hand—trumpet, bass, saxophone, drums—whatever instrument he plays—each soloist, that is, when he begins to ad lib on a given composition with a title and improvise a new creative melody, this man is taking the place of a composer. He is saying, “listen, I am going to give you a new complete idea with a new set of chord changes. I am going to give you a new melodic conception on a tune you are familiar with. I am a composer.” That’s what he is saying.
Instant composition. That’s heavy. That’s IR.
Aham Oluo practically stabbed the microphone with his trumpet. He split his time blowing full-force and backed away from the mic, giving room to the remaining trio, while Josh Rawlins’ Rhodes took lead. On bass, Evan Flory-Barnes played the night’s most heart-swelling solos, bowing a gorgeous interlude early into the set and fast-plucking lines of deep funk. D’Vonne Lewis—who I called “Seattle’s most talented drummer” back in ’07—delivered neck-snapping breakbeats, softly sizzling accompaniment and blistering rock n’ roll thunder. He was also the band’s frontman for the night, introducing the players a couple times throughout the set and gamely bantering with the audience.
When was the last time you saw a trumpet as a lead instrument at Neumos? After some early adjustments, the sound inside the venue was as warm and solid as I’ve ever heard it. What a pleasure to hear this music, as dynamic in tone and volume as anything performed on this stage, on such a massive sound system, perfectly tuned. The sound was enveloping: A couple times the dancing crowd verged on moshing, recalling the fullblown jazz-made mosh pit that opened during BadBadNotGood’s show late last year. (Speaking of, BBNG is the best thing going in jazz from the other coast. Let’s get them on tour with IR.)
By the end of the show Flory-Barnes had practically ripped open his button-down shirt. Oluo was on his knees, horn directed straight up at the microphone, blasting a mortal cry toward the heavens.
“It’s been a great 10 years!” Lewis told the crowd. “Through all our differences, arguments, beefs, whatever, whenever we get on stage we are one.”
Get ready for Industrial Revelation to turn up jazz: ‘Oak Head’s’ roots go deep
Written by Carol Banks Weber
The songs they played were beautiful, dramatic, psychedelic, funny, funky, swinging, punchy. So much breadth in a single tune; many were multi-movement pieces of six or eight minutes that would sojourn in unexpected interludes before returning triumphant to a principal theme. They had names like “No Tears for a Wolf” (an Oluo original) and “Shadowboxing in the Wind” (by Lewis). By the end of the set, Oluo was in his undershirt and the other guys were sweating through their sweater vests.
–Jonathan Zwickel, City Arts, January 26, 2013
Photo by Daniel Sheehan
Something’s happening in Seattle’s underground. While visitors and locals flock to see the usual rotation of aging hit-makers, Grammy darlings, and critics’ choices, serious young musicians are making a dent making real music together in the true spirit of jazz improvisation and collaboration. They’re at the late-night dives, janky clubs, each other’s basements, when they’re not doing time on major stages of major venues amassing accolades and awards, simply for the pursuit of honest music.
They don’t come any better than Industrial Revelation. Comprised of established, young, and hungry musicians who are tops in their field, this garage-jazz quartet already hooked a legion of fans a decade ago. Drummer D’Vonne Lewis (McTuff), grandson of Seattle R&B legend Dave Lewis, put together this group to have fun, yeah, but to go far and change the face of jazz.
He gathered Earshot Jazz Golden Ear Award winner Evan Flory-Barnes on upright bass, Town Hall’s inaugural 2012 Artist in Residence Ahamefule J. Oluo(trumpet), and another Golden Ear recipient, Josh Rawlings (piano/Fender Rhodes) for this not-so-small task. They’ve actually been together jamming it out for about 10 years, gathering a cult following of fiercely devoted fans with every heart-pounding gig and live recording (three to date).
Last year in October, they released their first serious studio album, “Oak Head,” named after the isolated cabin they were holed up in recording for two spring days. Known for the intensity of their powerful, mood-shifting live shows, as they completely get engrossed in the progression of each song, this new release is only a bit of a departure in that Industrial Revelation tried to keep all that energy contained to serve the truth of the deeply melodic, deeply conscious, deeply personal music.
This album just might catapult them to the crossover mainstream.
The eight songs are either from their routine playlist or new stuff that rose up on the spot in the cabin studio. Most uniquely, all of it’s based on melody, experimentation, and truth. “Sincerity is the absolute ripest playground for experimentation. The idea that the two are at odds is a myth. It’s all about balance,” Oluo explained. “The more you stretch to the experimental ends of music, the more you have to embrace the humanity of music. The taller the tree, the deeper the roots. The roots of this album go deep.”
“Want (within)” reflects the roots of soulful melody. Rawlings holds the key as Oluo makes his plaintive statement in tentative, rich notes, and Lewis draws from an almost military precision on the snare.
“Waking (without)” ventures into avant-garde territory as the form literally shakes, snaking around Oluo’s last vestige of sanity in his brassy, almost second line fatigue.
“The Lake” features percussionist Lewis and bassist Flory-Barnes laying down the emboldened jump tracks harkening the ska punk of No Doubt and Dance Hall Crashers until Rawlings comes in on his Beatles-esque Rhodes and Oluo on his trumpet slapping that ‘60s psychedelic rock vibe. Oluo then masterfully mashes the 1960s acid rock with the 1990s ska scene seamlessly.
“Shadow Boxing In The Wind” showcases Lewis as quite an inventive, offset percussionist, Oluo as a lyrical finisher on trumpet, and Rawlings as a Rhodes scholar, keeping that constant line, yet moving an undulating, untempered ‘70s situation forward in whirling skirmishes. This is Industrial Revelation at its best; one can only imagine the fiery lava of the band doing this live for way longer than 5:48.
“Color Of Caliman” starts off almost as a retro-re-issue, as spoken by one of the jazz masters from the golden era, come back to earth after a century to show the new and aspiring musicians what’s possible. Oluo conjures up the spirits of all the late horn masters in this wonderfully inspired, contemplative piece that dares speak on a gentle social platform.
The first single off the album, Flory-Barnes’ “Saying Goodbye (to rainbow socks and hair dye),” strikes off what the band refers to as an “obsessive melody” played on Oluo’s flugelhorn, while the others flit around the bass like fireflies. Mostly improvised on the spot in that cabin studio, it’s a sweet jewel box.
Is this strictly jazz? Who cares, it’s close enough, but more importantly, it’s a close approximation of the future of jazz in the use of stylistic influences, an abundance of shifting moods and conscience struggles, and always, that collaboration confluence. “It’s a jump-off. Even though we’re four albums deep, Oak Head is just the beginning,” Lewis promised. “With our earlier albums we were still growing, you know? Finding our focus. Now we can really get it going.”
Expect an Industrial Revolution. The band hits all the outside spots this month, including Eastlake’s Lofi Performance Gallery, 8 p.m., February 21, and Capitol Hill’s World of Beer, 7 p.m., February 22.
Live Tonight: Shannon and the Clams, Maldoggies Family Christmas, Industrial Revelation & More!
Written by Azaria C. Podplesky with the Seattle Weekly
Industrial Revelation is not your grandparents’ jazz quartet. Sure, the band’s latest, Oak Head, finds Ahamefule Oluo playing the quintessential smoky-jazz-club trumpet riff (especially on “Victorious Kite” and “Color of Caliman”) and pianist Josh Rawlings tickling the keys while drummer D’Vonne Lewis and bassist Evan Flory-Barnes set a smooth pace. But the group also infuses its classic jazz sound with elements that are just left-of-center, like up-tempo swing on “The Lake” and [distorted Fender Rhodes] on the experimental “Shadow Boxing in the Wind.” This mix of classic and avant-garde gives the album both a spontaneous and coolly composed tone.
This year’s winner of The Stranger’s Genius Award is a perfect frame for the cross-genre, cross-generation, cross-racial, cross-economic, ever-morphing magic that Industrial Revelation continues to create. The soaring amalgam of jazz, hiphop, indie rock, punk, and soul, is seamless, substantial, and enormously entertaining. The genius of this band is honest, open, and uncalculated. People dance at these jazz concerts!
The Seattle Weekly calls D’Vonne Lewis (drums), Evan Flory-Barnes (bass), Josh Rawlings (keyboards), and Ahamefule J. Oluo (trumpet) “effortlessly, constantly inventive.” Featured as one of “50 Bands Rocking Seattle Music Right Now,” Seattle magazine praised their live performance as a “sweat-inducing jam, with big horn crescendo’s, rapid bass solos, lightning strikes of keys and rolling thunder drums.” Industrial Revelation embodies the great Seattle jazz continuum; past, present, and future.
Jazz that fucks with punk, soul, pop, rock, and hiphop.
The catchiest tune of the year, “Saying Goodbye (to Rainbow Socks and Hair Dye),” at the Genius Awards.
One night while watching D’Vonne Lewis playing with a trio at the Vito’s lounge, it occurred to me that he just might be the most talented musician in Seattle. Raised by a family with deep roots in Seattle’s black American musical tradition, Lewis, a jazz drummer and the founder of the quartet Industrial Revelation, is not only a highly refined drummer, a drummer who has a complete command of his instrument, but also a drummer who has somehow managed to preserve at the core of his technical brilliance something that is like the initial, primal pleasure of the act of beating. If one listens to the great jazz drummers of the canon (Elvin Jones, for example), this raw instinct is pretty much gone. Theirs is a drumming that aspires to begin and end with mastery. Lewis, on the other hand, never lets his technical prowess completely erase the path that leads all the way back to that first joyful moment when one hits and hears the tautness of a drumhead. This is my impression of his musicianship in general and also the reason why I think he stands above all other players in this rocking city.
Lewis founded Industrial Revelation in 2005. It was, he once told me, the R & D (research and development) wing of his jazz career. And as a company or a country must subsidize its risky, failure-prone R & D programs, Lewis subsidized the time he spent on IR with income generated from his professional gigs. He had no idea where IR would go, what kind of music they would finally make, or whether it would work out. He just wanted the band to be as open as possible to different styles and ideas, and he placed it at the center of all of his other more traditional obligations. Nothing, he said to me again and again, was more important to him than IR. And as it was at the center of his career, he is at the center of the band’s sound. This, I think, is one of the important elements of IR’s greatness. It has its foundation in a drummer. And with black music, it is always drumming that separates one genre from another. We know house from the “four-to-the-floor” beat, classic hiphop from the “boom bap” beat, go-go from the go-go beat. The drum style names the music.
Nine years after forming this R & D program, Industrial Revelation won a Stranger Genius Award. The achievement is all the more impressive because the other nominees, Erik Blood and the founders of Hollow Earth Radio (Amber Kai Morgan and Garrett Kelly), were very strong contenders for the prize. Certainly one reason Industrial Revelation prevailed is that Lewis’s R & D project is not just about him but is instead a creative collaboration with three other extraordinarily talented local musicians. IR might begin with Lewis, but it does not end with him.
The band’s bass player, Evan Flory-Barnes, is a giant in his own right. One will spend a lifetime trying to find a jazz musician in this town who has something bad to say about Flory-Barnes. And with good reason. This bassist has achieved a level of mastery where the boundary between the musician and the instrument is practically absent. Indeed, one cannot even imagine Flory-Barnes doing anything else but playing the upright bass, and can’t imagine the upright bass doing anything but Flory-Barnes. This is not empty praise. Anyone who has watched him perform knows what I’m talking about. Like Lewis, Flory-Barnes has a reputation that’s firmly established outside of IR.
The same is true for Josh Rawlings, the band’s keyboardist. If you have not heard him play with this or that local jazz or soul act, then you have certainly heard him perform with the biggest name in hiphop today, Macklemore. But if you really want to hear the deep roots Rawlings has in America’s classical music (jazz), I really recommend downloading the Josh Rawlings Trio’s Climbing Stairs, which was released in 2008 and, judging from Rawling’s liner notes, was a kind of musical dissertation of his education at Cornish College of the Arts.
Then there is Ahamefule J. Oluo, the band’s trumpet player. What this musician and composer brings to the house that has its foundations in Lewis’s drumming is a sound that’s at once passionate but expresses a great amount of sensitivity. I might be wrong about this, but I think there are primarily two types of jazz trumpeters: those who blow outward and those who blow inward (Freddie Hubbard represents the former, and Miles Davis the latter). Oluo’s playing does not blend the two but instead moves between them from moment to moment, from track to track. Oluo is also a talented composer, a fact that was made clear at his 2012 Town Hall performance of his musical Now I’m Fine. (On the Boards is presenting the musical again this winter—December 4 to 7.)
It’s safe to say that without the contributions of these three musicians, the man who I believe just might be the best musician in (let’s expand the area) the Pacific Northwest would not have won the Genius Award in Music.
Industrial Revelation (Evan Flory-Barnes, Ahamefule Oluo, Josh Rawlings, D’Vonne Lewis) photographed at the Royal Room, July 10, 2014
Gateway Band: Medeski Martin & Wood
With D’Vonne Lewis on drums, Evan Flory-Barnes on bass, Josh Rawlings on keys, and Ahamefule J. Oluo on trumpet, Industrial Revelation is a supergroup that defies convention. They’re jazz, they’re postjazz, they’re neo-soul, they’re rock ’n’ roll, but most importantly, they are masters of their craft. Lewis descends from multiple generations of serious musicians; Oluo has played with Hey Marseilles; Flory-Barnes, who has composed symphonies, can play his double bass on anything from hip-hop to brunch chatter; and Rawlings has toured with Allen Stone and Macklemore. Their live shows are sweat-inducing jams with big horn crescendos, rapid bass solos, lightning strikes of keys and rolling-thunder drums. See them cast their magic spell on September 27 at the Blue Moon Tavern. industrialrevelation.com
How would you describe your sound? “Black and white keys melodically tickle the spirit while your soul is immersed in the baptizing roar of the trumpet. Bass strings slap against the wood grain as if to unapologetically beg for your submission, as the drums thunderously dance during your revelation of a love found.” —D’Vonne Lewis
Industrial Revelation – OAKHEAD: If “new & exciting” is something you’re seeking diligently in your musical experience, I can tell you that this group is IT, folks! Tunes like the rabble-rousing “The Lake” will smoke yer’ socks & set yer’ mind on fire! What’s key about this great jazz quartet is that they’re playing music today that will set the standard for tomorrow. I had the privilege of hearing them live at Rhythm & Rye, & dashed off a LIVE SHOW review immediately, & I can tell you, that doesn’t happen often… usually, I want to hear the band a couple of times before writing about them (look for an upcoming INTERVIEW with them, too). My personal favorite on this outing was the totally moving, as in rhythm, “PlaceSaver“… every beat, every note is “right on time”! I give these folks (D’Vonne Lewis – drums; Evan Flory-Barnes – upright bass; Ahamefule J. Oluo – trumpet; Josh Rawlings – piano / fender rhodes) a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00, which means they also get the “PICK” of this issue for “best original music” Get more info about the band at the Industrial Revelation site (& tell them we sent you)!
INDUSTRIAL REVELATION Ahamefule J.Oluo, Josh Rawlings, D’Vonne Lewis, and Evan Flory-Barnes before a performance at the Northwest African American Museum.
A drummer, a bassist, a trumpeter, and a keyboardist.
MAKES JAZZ THAT:
Breaks the boundaries of jazz.
DISCOVERED WHILE TOURING IDAHO:
That the white folks of that state really dig their music.
It is common for young jazz musicians of our day to incorporate hiphop into their work. Some do this successfully, but most badly. But always their reason for turning to and borrowing beats from hiphop is rotten: They feel jazz by itself is no longer relevant. This is not the music of our times. The current generation is all about Kanye West and not Miles Davis. Indeed, jazz is now considered America’s classical music—meaning, it’s music for institutions like the university and the museum.
That’s not how Industrial Revelation think of jazz. The group has four members—D’Vonne Lewis (drums), Evan Flory-Barnes (bass), Josh Rawlings (keyboards), and Ahamefule J. Oluo (trumpet). All are trained primarily as jazz musicians and play in a number of jazz bands and venues around town. However, IR’s 2013 album Oak Head makes it clear that when these four men make music together, they cannot be classified as a jazz band. IR have a sound that is not determined by one genre, but instead is overdetermined by multiple genres—hiphop, indie rock, punk, soul, and so on. But here is what makes IR truly unique and worthy of the status of Genius: Their mission as musicians is not to save jazz or to be relevant to younger audiences. Absent from their live shows and two albums is exactly that kind of desperation and scheming. What we hear instead are tunes composed and performed by four very talented musicians who are naturally, effortlessly, constantly inventive.
The band was formed in 2005 by Lewis, the drummer; before releasing their first album in 2010, IR saw themselves as essentially a live band. “It never occurred to me that we would ever do a recording,” says Rawlings, the keyboardist. “I always thought our music would just vanish in the air after a performance.” As IR have no defined borders for their music, they have no borders of where they play or whom they play for. “When Klan members hear us,” says Flory-Barnes, the bassist, “they have to take off their hoods, get on the floor, and forget about all that stuff.” As for Oluo, the band’s trumpeter, he finds great pleasure in watching older people at their shows “rocking out to a jam that’s really nothing but the Dead Kennedys, but they do not know it.”