Jaga Jazzist — What We Must / Spydeberg Sessions
(Ninja Tune ZEN103, 2005, 2CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2006-05-01This Norwegian band has been refining their particular brand of jazz (if that’s what you want to call it) for nearly ten years now, and while some things remain the same from their beginnings, others have progressed. They still play a music unmistakably rooted in jazz, though with electronic elements added, mallet instruments provide sonic variety, and guitar functions often as a melodic instrument mixed in with the horns. What We Must starts out with a short ramp up to a wall of sound, with a mass of keyboard and guitar backing a melody in the horns, with an insistent rhythm in the drums. When the backing drops out, we get the melody relatively unadorned, and it has a slight bossa nova feeling to it, showing what a difference an arrangement can make. The track ends with a bit of meditative distorted electric guitar. One thing this band is very good at is building intensity slowly over the course of several minutes – I’m reminded of Godspeed You Black Emperor (insert ! after random word) only with a jazz flavor. I find the combination of horns with pulsing marimbas and quirky guitar noises really fascinating. This is not a band prone to flashy solos, more a unit that works out interesting arrangements and textures. The Spydeberg Sessions is a short CD with demo versions (recorded “live in the same room and mixing on the go”) of four of the tracks from What We Must. The great qualities of the tunes are there, though with less of the studio sheen, and a little more whimsy. “Stardust Hotel” has some great goofball synth work on it that didn’t make the final cut, but is wonderful in its own way. This band should be making some inroads with the post-rock crowd as well as jazz buffs who aren’t stuck back in bebop.
Related artist(s): Jaga Jazzist
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