With their arsenal of instruments and confident stage presence, these nine gifted musicians appeared ready to take the stage by storm. Their creative, explorative musical style matched and surpassed everything promised by their visual presentation.
Playing together since 1994, Jaga Jazzist got a big break in 2002 when the BBC named their debut album, “A Livingroom Hush,” the best jazz album of the year. Since then, they have released “The Stix” (2003), “What We Must” (2005) and their latest album, “One-Armed Bandit” (2010). Citing influences as diverse as Joni Mitchell and MGMT, they have been compared to acts as varied as Eric Satie and Aphex Twin.
Dense, layered soundscapes
Their voluminous collection of instruments includes guitars, bass, piano, saxophones, trumpets, trombones, tubas, a vibraphone, percussion and a whole host of electronics.
From the first note, Jaga Jazzist filled the expansive room to the brim with their unique blend of jazz, rock and electronic music. For two hours they played dense, layered soundscapes that were at times sinister and brooding and at times seemed to launch the audience high into the sky. The band appeared to take their music very seriously and the show was seldom playful or downright danceable.
A haunting background of slowly changing ethereal tones
Although it got off to a rough start with a fight near the stage and an interrupted song, the audience and the band quickly made up when someone yelled out, “We are truly sorry for that!” Jaga Jazzist responded in turn by lighting up the stage and getting down to the music. They later endeared themselves to the audience.
The peak of the performance came around two-thirds of the way through the show during a gorgeous trumpet solo by Mathias Eick. Painted on a haunting background of slowly changing ethereal tones that seemed to make time stand still, Eick mesmerized the crowd with a sublime, deeply satisfying solo.
Jaga Jazzist’s lighting and stage design contributed well to the successful evening. The stage was decorated with placards depicting images from slot machines -- a watermelon, a bell, a pair of cherries and a lucky number seven -- lit from below and saturated with color. The air above the stage was thick from the fog machine; perfect for the brief laser light show that was wired to perfectly match punctuating bursts of sound from the piano.
Hopefully Jaga Jazzist will make many more trips to share their creative sound with the world. And if their instruments will fit on a plane, maybe they won’t even have to take a Viking ship.
About Jaga Jazzist
Jaga Jazzist have become something of a musical phenomenon in Norway since they started 15 years ago. Not only is this 9 piece instrumental band regarded as one of the most exciting and innovative in Norway, the members are all involved in other musical projects and have in one way or another contributed to almost every significant recording to come out of that part of the world in the last few years. It has been this strong involvement with different projects, and different musical styles and sounds which is the key to the unique sound of Jaga Jazzist. With no boundaries and an arsenal that includes trumpet, trombone, electric guitars, bass, tuba, bass clarinet,saxes, keyboards, vibraphone and a rack of electronics, Jaga Jazzist create timeless music. Melodic, hypnotizing, delicate and subtle.
Jaga Jazzist started out in Tonsberg (a small town outside Oslo) in 1994 at which time Lars Horntveth (the main songwriter in Jaga) was only 14 years old! In 2001 they released their debut album “A Livingroom Hush” on Warner in Scandinavia to massive critical acclaim and great sales (the album sold over 15000 copies in Norway alone..). The band then signed a deal for the rest of the world through Oslo`s Smalltown Supersound. Throughout 2002 the band shocked fans and critics alike with their blistering live shows and the buzz resulted in sold out dates all over Europe and the band soon came to the attention of Ninja Tune who did a license/collaboration deal with Smalltown Supersound.
Creation of a sound they could genuinely call “Jaga Jazzist “
At the same time that their debut album was gaining more and more international success, Jaga recorded the follow up titled “The Stix”, their first for Ninja Tune. As with their first album it was produced by Norwegian superproducer Jørgen Træen the man behind Duper Studios in Bergen (home of Røyksopp, Kings of Convenience, Sondre Lerche et.al.) but this time Jaga wanted to push their musical limits even further and really create a sound they could genuinely call “Jaga Jazzist “. It was the perfect balance between (hu)man and machine, and it never lost the organic nature of a live 10 piece.
The breakthrough moment was the track "One Armed Bandit"
After heavy touring next came their most radical "What We Must" album, the result of the band going into an isolated studio out in the Norwegian woods and recording the demo now known as the Spydeberg Session. Put down in one take in one day, it was a breakthrough moment for the group. A sound that was closer to their live sound than ever before. It was their rock album. But of course Jaga's own kaleidoscopic take on rock stylings, rolling from early 90s British shoegazer guitar pop to 70s prog rock, all shot through with Jaga's own unique logic.
And now this takes us to their 6th album, "One Armed Bandit", due for release in January 2010. Lars Horntveth began writing the music in early 2008. Alongside two new band members Øystein Moen-keys and Stian Westerhus-Guitar, JAGA rented A house in the Swedish forest to rehearse new material. It could be said that it was a reaction to "What We Must". It does include the rock stylings of "What We Must" and the electronics of "The Stix" but is still very much looking forward with a new sound. The breakthrough moment was the track "One Armed Bandit", the first single from the album of the same name. Taking influence from the afro-beat stylings of Fela Kuti but funneled through their own style. The Wagner-Esque fanfares and arpeggios are intended to sound like slot machines. And this Wagner meets Fela Kuti sound became a kind of theme of the album. In December 2008 the band went to Cabin Recorders to record the album with Jørgen Træen, a man who had been a big factor in forming Jaga´s music since A Livingroom Hush and the Stix, Unfortunately after 3 weeks Træen got tinnitus. Jaga quickly thought of John McEntire of Tortoise fame. He was enthusiastic about mixing it and in April 2009, 3 members of the band went to Soma Studio in Chicago to mix the album. Interestingly one day the Norwegian garage jazz band "The Thing" were playing at a local jazz club. Jaga went down there with a microphone and laptop and recorded what was to be the intro of the album.
At heart of this collective is a restless soul, going in many directions at the same time, but always going forward.
The Upcoming Concerts of the Group
22.03.12 Norway, Bergen, Hulen
00.06.12 Norway, Oslo, Miniøya
16.06.12 UK, London, The Barbican
w/Britten Sinfonia/Lars Horntveth
10.08.12 Germany, Rees, Haldern Pop
15.09.12 Norway, Oslo, Ultima Festival, Rockefeller