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.