The words progressive jazz would normally have me running for the hills so fast ( not that I need to as I live on them ) that I would leave Ussain Bolt by the kerb clutching the stitch in his side . Yet Jaga Jazzist,s new album , their first in five years by all accounts , is great. Yet their Myspace page lists them as" Progressive / Alternative / Jazz" which in my experience usually involves a number of people playing wildly different pieces of music at various tempo's none of which has a recognisable tune .....while someone else hit's a radiator with a wrench . Not good then ,unless you love clanging radiators which I don't .
But One Armed Bandit is something else. It is wildly experimental and freeform yet still retains structure , compositional flow and rhythmic arrangements and .......wait for it ...melody. That might sound oxymoronic and quite possibly is yet it does sum up what this band's ethos seems to be.
Jaga Jazzist (also known as Jaga) is a ten piece jazz band from Norway that first rose to prominence when the BBC named their first album, A Livingroom Hush
the best jazz album of 2002 which is something I missed at the time. The band utilises trumpets, trombone, electric guitar, bass, tuba, bass clarinets, Fender Rhodes, vibraphone and a plethora of electronics but their music is never over fussy or constitutionally dense .There is light and air in the songs , a sense of space and freedom yet also a refusal to play by any particular set of rules while not forgetting that other people have to listen to this too. it's a ballet of contradictions that ends up making perfect sense. Unlike this review it must be said.
So the music can be funky, playful , cinematic ( it often sounds like the soundtrack to a 1960,s spy saga -the title track is a horn led case in point ) sleek and futuristic , wilful and muscular and at times i just plain barmy. "Touch of Evil "gallops along frantically like an flamboyant version of rave with cosmic touches of strangulated metal and flourishes of Middle Eastern music. It's preposterous yet fantastic. Which pretty much sums up One Armed Bandit .It's progressive jazz for those who would not normally like progressive jazz which I suppose means you must like it after all. Prog jazz for those who don't normally like prog jazz ...like far out man . I've got to go ...my heads started hurting .