Near the end of the 2014 Earshot Jazz Festival, the local quartet Industrial Revelation performed at the EMP. There wasn't a single free seat in the room, and the sense shared among those in the audience—which was, in terms of age, diverse—was that something truly special had emerged in a community with deep roots in the city. The band was formed in 2005 by four musicians with a strong background in jazz. D'Vonne Lewis (drums) was educated in the nationally recognized jazz program at Roosevelt High School; Evan Flory-Barnes (bass), Josh Rawlings (keyboards), and Ahamefule J. Oluo (trumpet) attended Cornish College of the Arts—and they counted the late saxophonist/flutist Hadley Caliman as the band's guiding spirit. Indeed, during a conversation at the Frye Art Museum for the music nominees of the 2014 Stranger Genius Award (which IR went on to win), Oluo mentioned on several occasions how Caliman's technical brilliance and his controversial views about race and music had a huge influence on the band. (They even dedicated a beautiful tune, "Color of Caliman," to the teacher—he was on the music faculty at Cornish—on Oak Head, their second album.)
All this jazz talk is significant because Industrial Revelation are about to step outside their scene in a big way, headlining their first big show of 2015 at Neumos, a 750-person-capacity club not known for hosting much jazz. IR have performed at nontraditional venues (the Comet, Blue Moon Tavern) before, but for the most part, the band's teeth were cut at places like Tula's and the Royal Room, and at Earshot. So how did they break out of the confines of the jazz community and enter Seattle's mainstream? Is it because of their youth (late 20s to mid 30s)? Or the fact that keyboardist Rawlings frequently works with Macklemore? Maybe it's because their music experiments with, combines, and fucks with other genres—particularly pop, funk, indie rock, and punk? (Do not, however, confuse this band with jazz fusion.) Is this the beginning of a new wave of jazz acts attracting a wider, younger audience in Seattle, or is Industrial Revelation a freak of nature?
I spoke to a couple of cats from the jazz community about the meaning and possible implications of this big show, but first I turned to Neumos co-owner Steven Severin to ask why they booked IR in the first place.
"You do realize that we do every genre here, right?" came his response. "Last week, I had EDM, metal, jam band, hiphop, and indie rock. That's all in the same week. Anyways, IR are not really a straight-up normal jazz band. And we do whatever shows people want to see. Hell, we did Hanson before and will do it again. If folks wanna play any of our clubs and we know folks in Seattle want to see them, then we'd be fools not to book them. You can't eat off being cool every day. Though IR are pretty cool. So the whole thing seems pretty logical to me. Also, I just didn't think it was a big leap or anything for us to do this. I love jazz. I'm sure we've done other jazz groups or ensembles, not that I could tell you off the top of my head."
Wayne Horvitz, one of the owners of the Royal Room (a jazz joint that opened in Columbia City three years ago and is still going strong) and a jazz pianist with a serious national profile, sees the Neumos show from a historical perspective.
"I saw Bill Frisell at the Showbox the other night, and I grew up when the Fillmore had the Band on the same bill with Miles Davis, so it just seems pretty normal to me. I also like Neumos. I saw the Meat Puppets there recently, and it was awesome. What I think it comes down to is just music, and as acts get bigger, they work in bigger venues. Certainly the OK Hotel back in the '90s had Nirvana and Eugene Chadbourne and Critters Buggin. I mean, even I would play at the OK on one night with something that 'fit a rock club'—like Pigpen. And then, two weeks later, play a really quiet show that 'seemed like jazz.' But the main thing about IR is I hope they sell out! They deserve it."
John Comerford, a filmmaker and Earshot Jazz Festival board member, pointed out that it's not as unusual as it sounds.
"Back a few years ago, I caught the Robert Glasper Experiment at Neumos. It was wall-to-wall indie rockers, hipsters, and black folk from hiphop to soul and back again. What I witnessed that night was a coming together of worlds and, as a die-hard jazz aficionado, something that was hugely welcome for the scene. IR have a special local resonance that also draws multiple audiences, or, as it is said in 'marketing speak,' strong psychographic reach. Personality, values, opinions, attitudes, and interests that weave together race, gender, income, and geography are indeed golden threads. Not too many art forms except perhaps universal movies, dance, and jazz bring together those audiences. Maybe that's the genius of it, this music and perhaps the musicians themselves just don't care who you are or where you come from. They are just thrilled you made it and thrilled to throw down their consolidated expression for people who are ready to tap into the energy they release."
Ahamefule J. Oluo, the group's trumpeter and a talented composer, provided these concluding remarks over drinks at Lottie's Lounge:
"For the past 10 years, Industrial Revelation, more than any band I have ever worked with or been a part of, has been relentlessly focused on a fierce and visceral, ever-deepening human connection. We are very proud of the records we have put out, but we are very much a live band, our shows are the heart of what we do, and it is that which has brought us, seeming proprietors of a dead art, to the stage of Neumos, one of the most relevant stages in our city.
"This is not just about bigger venues and rising stature, it is about connecting with all the people of today through a means that so many thought was no longer possible. This show is a testament to what we stand for, and in light of that, we are going to give everything that we have on that stage."