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Jazz Rock/Fusion • Norway

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Jaga Jazzist picture
Jaga Jazzist biography
In 1994 a couple of kids from Norway all around the age of 14 decided to make an album combining their wide range of influences, but the main one being jazz and electronic music, they made in 1996 their first album "Grete Stitz". It wasn't that much of a ruckus, but they where slowly on their way to perfecting their own sound.

It was in 2001 with their album, "A Livingroom Hush" , that the 10 piece instrumental band named Jaga Jazzist finally was in the spotlight. It was also when they became known all around the world with their unique sound and toured out of their own country for the first time witch gave them a lot of recognition from all over the world as well as the raving reviews they got from the album. In 2002 "A Livingroom Hush" was dubbed jazz album of the year.

In 2003 they released their follow up, "The Stix", witch saw the band experimenting more with their electronic side without the help of remixers. It also showed the band in a more rock direction than the previous one.

After all of the touring for The Stix was over, they went again into the studio to start recording their latest album, "What We Must", but after that they went and recorded the demo "Spydenberg Sessions" in witch their signature sound came evident; combining genres, artists and bands from all over the map that by reading their list of influences you wont believe it could be possible. After the band made a tour in the US and Canada showing their new material, they went on to record their latest album "What We Must". This album showed their post-rock influences more clearly than their previous two albums.

Jaga Jazzist is a strange band in it sense of mixing all their influences to make their own sound. They have jazz, electronica, progressive rock, shoegazer, psychedelic, hip-hop, alternative rock, experimental artists, post-rock and more all under their own umbrella of sound. Curious to know what they would sound like? See for yourself.

: : : Chamberry : : :

See also:
- Shining

Grete Stitz, studio album (1996) (as JŠvla Jazzist)
Magazine, EP (1998)
A Livingroom Hush, studio album (2001)
The Stix, studio album (2002)
Animal Chin, EP (2003)
Day, EP (2004)
What We Must, studio album (2005)

Jaga Jazzist official website

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Ninja Tune 2015
Audio CD$6.14
$7.50 (used)
What We MustWhat We Must
Ninja Tune 2005
Audio CD$9.80
$5.99 (used)
One Armed BanditOne Armed Bandit
Ninja Tune 2010
Audio CD$6.50
$5.53 (used)
Livingroom HushLivingroom Hush
Audio CD$12.99
$8.48 (used)
Live With the Britten SinfoniaLive With the Britten Sinfonia
Ninja Tune 2013
Audio CD$8.65
$11.41 (used)
Audio CD$8.00
$4.81 (used)
Box set · Limited Edition
Ninja Tune 2014
$80.90 (used)
Live at CosmopoliteLive at Cosmopolite
Multiple Formats
$9.89 (used)
Ninja Tune 2015
$16.18 (used)
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JAGA JAZZIST discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

JAGA JAZZIST top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 12 ratings
JŠvla Jazzist Grete Stitz
4.03 | 51 ratings
A Livingroom Hush
3.73 | 31 ratings
The Stix
3.75 | 49 ratings
What We Must
3.79 | 105 ratings
One-Armed Bandit
3.64 | 29 ratings

JAGA JAZZIST Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.73 | 13 ratings
Live With Britten Sinfonia

JAGA JAZZIST Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

5.00 | 2 ratings
Live At Cosmopolite

JAGA JAZZIST Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
'94 - '14

JAGA JAZZIST Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.92 | 7 ratings
Magazine EP
0.00 | 0 ratings
0.00 | 0 ratings
Airborne / Going Down EP
0.00 | 0 ratings
Going Down
2.91 | 3 ratings
2.14 | 3 ratings
Animal Chin EP
0.00 | 0 ratings
"What We Must" 4 Radio Edits
0.00 | 0 ratings
One-Armed Bandit (Radio Edit)
3.00 | 2 ratings
Bananfluer Overalt
3.50 | 2 ratings


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Starfire by JAGA JAZZIST album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.64 | 29 ratings

Jaga Jazzist Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 3.5 stars. I'm not sure why I can't get into this band. I have "What We Must" which was okay and I do feel that "Starfire" is a step up from that one, and I have yet to listen to "One-Armed Bandit" which I have and I'm hopeful that will be the one that clicks with me. I have enjoyed this all-instrumental album but I find the electronics to be too much despite also feeling this is fairly innovative. The other thing about this recording that sort of leaves me scratching my head is that while there is an abundance of instruments used on here it all seems to mesh together to the point that I was surprised at certain instruments were even used. This is a different beast for sure.

The thing that really got my attention with the opener "Starfire" was the tone of the synths before 1 1/2 minutes which immediately brought early PORCUPINE TREE to mind, not a bad thing at all. Lots of electronics, flute and synths but I like the calm before 7 1/2 minutes with the vibes. "Big City Music" is my least favourite and the longest track at over 14 minutes. It's still a good song though. I like the electronics that sound like rain to start, it then kicks in after a minute. Kind of a OZRIC TENTACLES vibe that comes and goes on this one as Drew mentions in his review. A calm before 3 minutes with those liquid sounding synths as strummed guitar joins in. An 80's vibe 5 minutes in with those synths that pulse. It turns brighter 8 minutes in then after 10 1/2 minutes we get some crazy synths. That brighter mood returns before 13 minutes to the end.

"Shinkansen" opens with some atmosphere as strummed guitar joins in. Keys around 1 1/2 minutes then flute which reminds me of 70's Fusion. This is good. The flute and a horn will trade off for a while and it's quite catchy before 6 minutes before the flute returns. "Oban" opens with drums with deep synths and electronics. Some 80's sounding synths join in after a minute. It settles down around 4 1/2 minutes then kicks back in before 6 minutes. There's those 80's sounding synths again before 10 1/2 minutes. I like the bass and horns early on in the next track called "Prungen". Sounds like a drum machine but probably isn't and we get plenty of synths. Lots of electronics after 4 minutes.

This did well in PA's annual Album Of The Year results so read BrufordFreak's(Drew) review for a more favourable slant on the music here, plus he's able to distinguish the sounds better than me.

 Starfire by JAGA JAZZIST album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.64 | 29 ratings

Jaga Jazzist Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

4 stars What an incredible breath of fresh air! I am so glad to be reminded by an album like this of how much I love upbeat, happy-go-lucky groove tunes like these. From the first notes of the opening song, Starfire, I was gushing with a big grin across my face. After finishing my first listen I went back to listen through an "old" favorite of mine that I'd almost forgotten, 2010's One-armed Bandit.

I love the band's self-written tome on their history on their Facebook page:

Jaga Jazzist is:

(a) A jazz band; (b) A rock band; (c) A progressive rock band; (d) A hip hop group; (e) A rap group; (f) A reggae group; (g) A polka band; (h) A comedy band; (i) An electronica group; (j) A classical ensemble; (k) A choral ensemble; (l) All of the above; (m) None of the above.

with the answer being (l) and (m). Obviously a gang who are out to have fun, pure and simple. But talented, too! As a matter of fact, I'm beginning to think that the entire population of Norway must be made up of really interesting, fun-loving, laid-back, happy-go-lucky people! I need to get there! Anyway. Back to Starfire. (Can't believe I just missed JJ's North American tour!) The entire album plays out like some incredible soundtrack music, starting with the opening song, 1. "Starfire" (8:47), which sounds like the opening song from a light-hearted French murder mystery (yes: there is such a thing) from the 1970s. Nice syncopated rhythm making at a rather pleasant cruising speed with great guitar and tuned percussion work. There's even a cool MOTORPSYCHO sound & feel during the fifth and sixth minutes with the rising scale of musical progression. Then the odd synth melody/riffs take over for a while before the song mellows down for a brief bit with vibes before weaving all of the song's themes together for the final minute of awesomeness. (9/10)

2. "Big City Music" (14:07) opens by introducing us to its KLAUS SCHULZE-like electronica foundation--which sounds awesome--before the other keyboard and drums take over the establishment of the songs foundation. Sounds like LARRY FAST playing with BILLY COBHAM. At 2:46 the music breaks down to allow some hand drums and odd computer incidentals which establish a kind of odd rhythm before strummed guitar joins in. Then Martin Horntveth reenters with his jazz drumming for a bit before the song breaks down again to allow individual instruments to help fill a rather spacey, spacious soundscape--very OZRIC TENTACLES-like. A BLADE RUNNER-like moment at 6:30 opens the next section of the song as multiple melody lines are woven together for a minute. Another shift at 7:30 as vocals are used to mirror a new keyboard melody line--we are now into PAT METHENY GROUP territory, big time! A minute later everything shifts again, back to the opening electronica with some funky synth fuzz bass play, which is then joined by pizzicato strings play, again forming a weave of differently syncopated melodies into one fascinating tapestry of sound. The full band seems to come into play with a return to a PAT METHENY style of pulsing rhythm and sophistication. (9/10)

3. "Shinkansen" (7:43) is probably my favorite song on the album for the laid back groove set up and maintained throughout the song by the strumming acoustic guitars as well as due to the prominence of the flutes and myriad "windy" synth sounds. Just a gorgeous, breezy, Nature-celebrating song all around. (Shinkansen is, by the way, the word for Japan's network of high speed trains. How appropriate!) (10/10)

4. "Oban" (12:42) is also quite Asian/Japanese (think: "Ryuichi Sakamoto") sounding in its melodic and rhythmic approach--though the work of KRAFTWERK, GARY NUMAN, and PETER SCHILLING also comes to mind. Eventually, in the second half of the song, the sounds and stylings turn to sound more like early DEPECHE MODE--though the drumming always remains quite exceptionally a notch above any of the above mentioned. Mellow sax in the fourth minute is beautifully offset and accompanied by multiple other rhythm instruments and horns. Then a little slow down of delicate horns in the fifth minute makes way for an awesome display of electronica (OZRICS again) before the original ensemble return with the full weave of music. Another song that could work awesomely as a soundtrack. I personally would love to see this made into a video. In the tenth minute the DEPECHE MODE-like synth bass line is gorgeously offset by harp and strings melodies. Just an awesome song with so much to listen to! Every time I hear it I discover so much more than I had previously heard! Gorgeous little outro, too. (10/10)

5. "Prungen" (6:35) shows the band taking on some Arabian-like musical sounds and stylings. The song does, however, continue the amazing string of made-for-movies music that they have going here. The Arabian melodies become even stronger with wooden flute in the second minute and strings in the third. Sax in the third doubles up with the flute and then electric guitar takes up a variation of the theme while layer of layer fills the background tapestry. An Arabian "violin" joins in the melody making in the fourth minute until a scratchy saw-like horn synth takes over with a ROBERT FRIPP-like dissonant melody line. This dominates the song despite the rejoinder of the rest of the band and the addition of a horn section, until 5:45 when everybody falls into line, working with the original melody line. Great song though the use of that one "Arabian" melody line makes it a little less exciting as the previous songs. (8/10)

This is an awesome album of great mood pieces--all deserving of film soundtrack contracts. I'm not yet willing to give it full masterpiece status though I think it is, it's just a little at the edge of what I consider progressive rock music--which is really a good thing. It's like The Amazing or Five-Storey Ensemble: incredible music but perhaps not true progressive ROCK music. We'll see.

BUT: Check out the album! You will LOVE it!

 The Stix by JAGA JAZZIST album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.73 | 31 ratings

The Stix
Jaga Jazzist Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars ''A livingroom hush'' and its innovative style became an instant favorite among music fans and the album sold rapidly over 15,000 copies in Norway alone.It won also the Norwegian music award Alarm Prize in 2002 and the same year it was crowned as ''Jazz Album of the Year'' by BBC listeners.Jaga Jazzist then signed a deal with the Norwegian label Smalltown Supersound, following the deal with a huge number of live shows, which were mostly succesful.They draw the interest of Ninja Tune, who came in a deal with Smalltown Supersound to have the rights to release the band's next album.As a result, ''The stix'' was originally released in 2002 on Smalltown Supersound and the following year vinyl and CD editions were released by Ninja Tune.Ivar Johansen and Jorgen Munkeby had been replaced by Andreas Schei (keyboards) and Ketil Einarsen (flute, keyboards, percussion).

Second album by Jaga Jazzist appears to follow a similar path as their debut with lots of Jazz and Electronic elements, although a bit more restrained.The problem is that the tracks are sounding pretty similar, combining jazzy improvisations with modern drum programming and Trip Hop beats, while there are also a fair amount of Avant Garde and Chamber Music traces via the piano and synthesizer lines.''The stix'' lacks the rather more diverse sound of Jaga Jazzist's debut, but the music remains refreshing, clean and charming.You get the feeling that many of its moments were parts of a Soundtrack, having an intense cinematic flavor, and the executions are pretty cool with abstract jams, laid-back ambiences and dominant Electronic showering.Lots of saxes and vibraphone strengthen the jazzy flavor of the album, which is mainly built around wind instruments, music effects and keyboards, offering contemporary instrumentals.The mass of delicate melodies of ''A livingroom hush'' are rather absent with the band choosing a more difficult and complex path in this album, which still contains some pretty adventurous and well-performed music.

A little dissapointment compared to the band's monumental debut.Still ''The stix'' is a fine combination of Jazz, Electronic and Chamber Music with an intense instrumental background, which will please fans of original, contemporary-styled music.Recommended.

 Live With Britten Sinfonia by JAGA JAZZIST album cover Live, 2013
4.73 | 13 ratings

Live With Britten Sinfonia
Jaga Jazzist Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Argonaught

5 stars I have listened for the 'Live With Britten Sinfonia' album by Jaga Jazzist only once, but I had known a couple of their songs, featured on this album, from their previous efforts.

What can I say - this is one of the most satisfying albums I have laid my hands on in the past few years. There is one very important (albeit subjective) test that this album passes cum laude: being stimulating without being irritating. Takes a lot of subtlety and refined taste to achieve this. It's like carrying something very fragile and precious in your hand: squeeze it a little harder than absolutely necessary to maintain the grip, and you crush it; loosen your hand just a little more than you should, and it drops and shatters into pieces.

I am especially impressed by the way Jaga Jazzist have evolved

Jaga Jazzist are enlisted here as a jazz-rock fusion band. I think the 'Live With Britten Sinfonia' has shown, once again, that they are quite capable of, and interested in playing any kind of serious music. I'd classify this album as modern classic to avoid splitting hair as to whether the 'Live With Britten Sinfonia' is symphonic, progressive, experimental, eclectic jazz or whatever. Shall I call them the Super Fusion of Everything band of the 21 Century?

Five stars without reservation.

 One-Armed Bandit by JAGA JAZZIST album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.79 | 105 ratings

One-Armed Bandit
Jaga Jazzist Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by LinusW
Special Collaborator Italian Prog Specialist

3 stars Balancing on the line between smooth, suave and elegant on one side and a bit tepid, glossy and sweetly melodious on the other, you should be able to infer that this is no roller-coaster ride of an album.

Don't be fooled though! This is a busily arranged and musically refined and proficient slice of music. Working on a basis of rather groovy, modern fusion mixed up with a fair bit of electronica and more atmospheric/soundtrack-like (almost post-rock-ish) sensibilities, it makes for quite a pleasing mix of genres and sounds, but I feel the fusion always comes out on top (even at times when the electronica goes as far down as the rhythm department). At the same time it manages to be relentlessly poppy, with myriads of sunny, happy-go-lucky melodies and harmonies popping up to the left and right.

There is an airy, almost fluffy, freshness to the compositions, regardless of a fuzzy, buzzing, mischievous richness that lurks beneath the shinier melodic surface. It sounds neat, clean, warm and playful. This is in part due to the compositions themselves, often strangely (but rather charmingly) na´ve and child-like. Perhaps ripped out of a kids' TV show or a friendly, flowery video game with a slight penchant for the absurd or surreal? The presence and particular use of clarinet, vibraphone, tuba, trumpet and saxophone on One-Armed Bandit enhance this feeling further.

Now and then things move into slightly darker territories, but as everything is relative it is the darkness of a nice, white cloud blocking the sun on an otherwise perfect summer's day. It is hard to find friction. And I need it, something that weighs the album down and connects me to the joyride. It teases with slight abrasiveness in the keyboards, a touch of ominous brass instrument majesty or a build up of colder and clearer free-form progressive structures, lures you in with a set of awkward atonal or glitch'y effects and a sudden eruption of earnest and fiery fusion rhythm and a tenser melody, but all too soon falls back into the meticulous and pleasurable lull of before. Charming, soothing, refined, admirable. But at times I find myself thinking: this is speed lounge. And it is a bit sad, because I rather like and admire what is going on here. It is just a bit too polite, quaint and bloodless in spite of the warm, vibrant richness.

Easy to like, impossible to love.

3 stars.


 One-Armed Bandit by JAGA JAZZIST album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.79 | 105 ratings

One-Armed Bandit
Jaga Jazzist Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by TechnicallySpeaking

4 stars I decided to review something a little different tonight. One of my favorite subgenres of progressive rock is fusion jazz. Launched into existence by the likes of Larry Coryell, Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock in the 60s, the genre evolved and integrated into the progressive scene in the 70s with bands such as Dixie Dregs, 10 Years After, Return to Forever and then in the 80s with bands like Shadowfax.

Of course, Magma was and remains a signature Progressive Fusion Jazz group that I had the pleasure to see live at NEARfest a few years back. Recently I discovered a band that continues this eclectic subgenre into the current decade with a fresh twist . Jaga Jazzist is a band from Norway that has released several albums since 1996. The one that I am reviewing is the most recent "One Arm Bandit" 2010. I recently watched some great video concert footage from a prior release "What we Must" that I plan to review soon as well. Anyway this is an awesome addition to my Fusion Jazz collection. Now for a track by track breakdown:

1. The Thing Introduces... (0:23) ? Opening ambiance, cymbals and perhaps a gong?

2. One-Armed Bandit (7:08) ? This song is very upbeat, and moving; almost danceable. It has the air of a live show. Then it changes into a complex electronica reminiscent of a video game sound track. Then it goes back to the upbeat rolling jazzy track that started the song. It has a great blend of live sounding acoustic instrumentation integrated with electronica. Of course the sound effects at the very end give the name of the song away as you hear the coins roll out of the machine.

3. Bananfluer overalt (6:17) - It begins with a short drum track reminiscent of Hawaii Five O, but then gets very jazzy, with off-beat odd time signatures. As the song moves on, symphonic keys join (strings and voices), along with nicely played guitar leads. The music is sufficiently complex but not overly crowded. There are parts that are beautiful in its simplicity. There are major changes throughout this song in instrumentation and composition, but a strong thread of a common theme that continues throughout.

4. 220 V / Spektral (7:03) ? This opens with a nicely done piano melody and bass with an effect that I could not quite identify. The song then picks up in intensity, with heavy drums, space-rock synth effects, bells, and some other sounds that I have not quite placed. This song has the signature "back beat" that I like in modern progressive jazz. About half way through, this song gets a little repetitive, and I started to lose interest. The song could have been 2 minutes shorter and been a better track.

5. Toccata. (9:11) ? This starts with a rather repetitive but catchy organ track with other instrumentation following along. Trombones and Tuba join the party. Then we get an explosion of nice fat and warm drumming. The drums are complex in the beat, but could have been pulled off on a four piece set for all I know. There is a little synth thrown in for texture, but for the most part this is an instrumental track featuring wind instruments. The dynamic creativity in the horns will keep your attention.

6. Prognissekongen (4:34) ? This is one big track. It starts with a jazzy but bombastic syncopated drumming with vibes. They explore many different musical modes in this track. The talent of the drummer is evident by signature jazz solos that are featured throughout. The" bigger than life" background of the song is augmented with discordant piano and synth that reaches a climax of pure chaos before folding back into upbeat sound that started the song. This track just flies by and is probably my favorite on the record.

7. Book of Glass (6:49) ? This song is not very organized at first. It almost seems a little out of place after the perfect composition of the previous track; however after a few minutes it starts to pick up steam, and continues the excellence from Prognissekongen. The technical aspects of this song are incredible. There are several things going on here from a fast pace drumming, to a continuous synth droning, to a quick guitar melody and lead keyboard that is incredible. I almost consider this a part of the prior track as it seem to resolve what was not previously expressed.

8. Music! Dance! Drama! (5:32) ? This track opens with a strong off -beat drumming and space rock background. The trumpet and trombone take the lead. There are some classic symphonic elements with instruments playing in full synchronization and others playing in completely different time signatures but fully complimenting the main timing. There is a lot of music buried in this track which takes a couple of listens to find.

9. Touch of Evil (6:40) ? This could be a movie track; a spy movie, perhaps the opening to the next James Bond, however it is not corny. It transitions into a steady down-to-earth beat with an ever changing bass line and keyboards providing the mood. The transition from a symphonic movie track to progressive jazz is seamless. It is constantly changing with a very modern feel. There is an electric guitar synchronized with a saxophone at one point that produces a unique sound. As it built towards the end of the track, an unexpected but complimentary pipe organ joins the party. It ends just as it begun with a helicopter sample.

I am happy that I was introduced to this band. Technically speaking it is one of my current favorites.

 One-Armed Bandit by JAGA JAZZIST album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.79 | 105 ratings

One-Armed Bandit
Jaga Jazzist Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by BORA

2 stars I feel compelled to pen a few words - if only to justify my low overall ratings of the band's output.

To put them in the Jazz Rock/Fusion genre appears to be rather erroneous. Contrary to what their name implies and the classification at PA, they have little - if anything to do with Jazz. Primarily, because they just don't "swing". The presence of wind instruments alone doesn't make it Jazz.

Their first release was rather juvenile, but that's hardly surprising of 14 year olds and in that light it deserved support. Trouble is that their music - especially compositions - have matured only slightly since.

One would anticipate a lot more from a 10 piece band and whilst this album is one of their better ones, it still is mediocre by any standards. Fragmented, robotic compositions have no place in any form of Jazz, contrary to some pleasing individual playing.

Only in comparison with their other works, I'd rate this a very weak 3, but in reality it's barely above 2 in my books. Needless to say, these albums will not stay with me long, but such things happen when one buys on "expert" recommendations.

 One-Armed Bandit by JAGA JAZZIST album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.79 | 105 ratings

One-Armed Bandit
Jaga Jazzist Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by fuxi
Prog Reviewer

4 stars If you've read some of my previous reviews, you will know I'm always on the lookout for bands that combine the wit of the Canterbury scene with the lyricism of Bill Bruford's Earthworks and the orchestral prowess of early 1970s Frank Zappa. And if there's one Zappa album I return to again and again, not just for the expert soloing, but especially because of its wonderfully bright ensemble playing, it's THE GRAND WAZOO, surely one of the very best "progressive fusion" albums - far more exciting than the comparatively monochrome HOT RATS!

I'm not familiar with anything Jaga Jazzist recorded before ONE-ARMED BANDIT... I simply bought this album because of the glowing reviews I kept reading, and I wasn't disappointed. The Norwegian band definitely seem to have taken a leaf out of Zappa's book. They've managed to resurrect that gorgeous WAZOO sound, combining it with 21st century electronics (never too much!) and with some exuberant Steve Reich-type minimalism. (Perhaps it 's more appropriate to speak of Reichian "pastiche", since the band take minimalism by the scruff of the neck - using repetitive phrases without embarrasment and working themselves into a frenzy!)

When seen purely as compositions (in which unexpected things tend to happen!) most of these tracks are a delight; and for the discerning prog lover it'll be even better news that instruments as diverse as tuba, vibraphone and electric guitar sometimes detach themselves from the "orchestra", executing neat little phrases and elegant miniature solos. A brilliant band; I can't wait to find out what they will do next.

 A Livingroom Hush by JAGA JAZZIST album cover Studio Album, 2001
4.03 | 51 ratings

A Livingroom Hush
Jaga Jazzist Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Norway's Jaga Jazzist offer a dizzying variety of sounds on A Livingroom Hush, seamlessly integrating lush, organic acoustic instrumentation with cutting-edge technology. On the album you'll find classic jazz textures to energetic and fast-paced fusion-inspired stretches reminiscent of Frank Zappa or some of the Canterbury Scene bands (I particularly note a hint of National Health and the Muffins), along with very modern-sounding dance music influences - and often you'll hear all of those happening at once.

What makes the album such a brilliant success to me, though, is the way they are able to seamlessly blend all of these styles together; the stylistic shifts in the album aren't abrupt and don't exist solely for showing off, but flow smoothly and organically and come across as part of a careful process of composition. If this is the "future jazz", as the Norwegian scene which spawned it is referred to, I can't wait for the future.

 One-Armed Bandit by JAGA JAZZIST album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.79 | 105 ratings

One-Armed Bandit
Jaga Jazzist Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Negoba
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Up-Beat, Modern, Grooving, Just a Little Complexity

Jaga Jazzist's ONE ARM BANDIT is pretty unique in my collection in that is self-consciously hip and modern. I'm not a big fan of modern electronica, which is a heavy element here, but the almost gleeful tone of this record makes me drop my baggage and just enjoy. This record is full of energy, and plenty of risks. The mix can get very busy, occasionally noisy, but the group seems to manage to keep it all together. The title track has at least five major musical ideas that sound very different, from almost free jazz to post-rock, a little math, a little avant-gard, and of course the theatrical electronics. Thankfully, I think most of the drums are live, and this really helps keep some degree of flesh and blood feel to the music. (Track 8, "Music! Dance! Drama! is an exception, I believe using triggered electronic drum sounds) There is a looseness to the beats in places that just can't be reproduced by a sequencer. I think this is what makes this music work this well for me.

The album is all-instrumental, probably best categorized as modern fusion. All guitars are clean and for the most part play a support role. Drums and keyboards rule the mix, with horns adding flavor. Even during some more dream-like passages, the rhythm continues to churn along excitedly. This is great music to put yourself back into a good mood. There are some interesting harmonic and melodic choices that mark this album as somewhat experimental. The risks pay off, and really the only complaint I have about the album is that the band occasionally lets sections hang on a little long without adding tension. But that's really a minor quibble, especially compared to some other music.

Some sections do get a little repetitive and sound like soundtrack music. "Toccata" is several minutes too long. Luckily, the next track is the aptly named "Prognissekongen" (at least the prog part), which packs massive overlapping lines in complex time all in 4:30. Despite some previous reviewers' comments, I feel that the band continue to pull out new tracks all the way up until the final track. While the album is quite coherent in sound, each track has its own vibe and statement. This isn't a fusion record with long sections of jams. Clearly, every song is composed and any improvisation is set around a structure specific to that tune.

This is a little notch above some of the 4 star albums in my list but still not quite enough to reach masterpiece status. Still, it has a unique spot in my music collection, and one that I come back to more often than most albums that I churn through. Easily recommend.

Thanks to Jimbo for the artist addition. and to NotAProghead for the last updates

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