Jaga Jazzist
Kozmigroov Albums
A Living Room Hush [NinjaTune, 2001]
One-Armed Bandit [NinjaTune, 2010]
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One-Armed Bandit - Jazzy and proggy modernism from Jaga Jazzist -- a record that finds the group unafraid to to recall some of the adventurous instrumental rock and jazz aware prog of the 70s onward without feeling like a throwback, and very much of the modern era. It's a lot of fun, even with a dizzying display of instrumentation, with synths and spacey keys, subtle programming, vibes, guitar, flute, clarinet, horns, banjo, mandolin, glockenspeil and more! Includes an intro by Swedish avant jazz greats The Thing, and tracks include "One-Armed Bandit", "Bananfluer Overalt", "Prognisseknogen, "Book Of Glass", "Touch Of Evil" and more.

A Livingroom Hush is the debut by Norwegian jazz/electronics outfit Jaga Jazzist, released in the United Sates on Ninjatune a year later. A Livingroom Hush is simply one of the most enigmatic outings to ever come out of either genre (and how many times can you say that?). Realized after the group had been together for nine years and led by the stunningly original compositions of Lars Horntveth (who began composing for the group when he was 14 in 1994), A Livingroom Hush is so deeply ingrained in its ensemble textures and striated harmonics that Jaga Jazzist almost never sounds like a big band. A horn section of winds, reeds, and brass, keyboards galore, drums both real and imagined (electronic), vibes, glockenspiel, electric guitars and bass, electronic keyboards, tape recorders, and a slew of other things give them the edge on virtually anyone who has attempted the same thing: a seamless blending of creative jazz with electronic exploration and beats. Yes, A Livingroom Hush swings, rocks, rolls, and even spins from drum'n'bass loops to extraordinarily subtle arrangements where dynamics are paid as much attention to as textural integration and harmonic interaction. Conscious counterpoint in the solo sections is not unusual and never mathematical or soulless. "Going Down," with its engaged and oppositional drums, the winding of horn lines around different rhythmic surfaces, and the shifting layers of keyboards atop a complex and heterogeneous bassline, makes for a dazzling balance of improvisation and composition. Likewise, "Press Play" is dazzling in its restraint and complexity, with its Brazilian rhythmic interlude and Gil Evans-styled horn chart before glitches and rhythmic abnormalities enter the fray and eliminate them to leave a space for subtle samples, spare pianistic juxtapositions of rhythm and harmony, and a simple harmonic structure that leaves the melody somewhere between the notes before bass clarinetist Jørgen Munkeby creates a theme for exploration by the ensemble. If one is looking for comparisons to St. Germain, Les Hommes, or Jazzanova, forget it. This is hip and still jazz; the music is first and appearances come later. Jaga Jazzist is the very first group -- with no disrespect to Cinematic Orchestra -- to successfully meld the lineages of the electronic frontier with big band jazz aesthetics.
[Thom Jurek]