is not Jaga Jazzist’s most distinguishing feature. Bullied
and bent into shape in the outer limits of the paranormal, their
extroverted, hewed in hell, jarringly jagged, trapezoidal sound
is guaranteed to fry the brain and turn ear wax into lighter fluid.
Taking up the challange -- as in let's get ready to rumble --
of reducing the numbing impact of Norway’s dark days of
winter, Jaga Jazzist’s alt-cult-jazz will instantly appeal
to the latest drug you’ve taken, or make your insanity-lunacy
feel regular. Their concert was the radio active stuff of highlight
reel from Montreal’s 2015
Montreal International Jazz Festival.
a sense of what this group is trying to do to themselves and their
audience (and they do it better than well), think of them as an
8-piece collective (led by brothers Lars and Martin Horntveth)
trying to produce the symphonic equivalent of nuclear fusion;
that is combine, meld and interpenetrate their ideas in such a
way to produce an on-stage conflagration -- the kind that preemptively
begs for a fire wall between their scalding Scandie sound and
audience. The vibe the Jazzists put out is so intense you’re
almost afraid to stick your fingers in it. And if you’re
next to the stage, you won’t be leaning into but rather
dodging the sharp flames that are being whipped up and sent out
in all directions. Starved of warmth and sunlight in winter, these
one-of-kind, contagiously creative Norwegians have learned how
to sizzle up their own very special concoction of hot and heavy
– and eat it too.
and category purposes, it’s easier to define what their
music isn’t than what it is. It combines prog-rock, electro-grunge
and improvisation, which mean it flirts with while giving the
steel boot to anything resembling conventional jazz. Its propulsion
and rectangularity derive from rock, but there are generous spaces
reserved for improvisation, albeit nothing remotely sounding like
a jazz solo. Instead sounds, often industrial, erupt into the
mix, are joined by pinched horn and guitar disgorgements, sometimes
discordant, piercing or plaintive: layer upon layer is added (think
of dry brush being fed into a huge fire, after which gasoline
is poured), until a fearsome swell of sound breaks through the
levee and all hell erupts – and to the manor born the audience
gets what it came for – and more. Sound transmuted into
your favourite hallucinogen. Is it a song or bull-dozer being
birthed on stage?
includes three guitarists, three separate keyboards and three
horn players (some of them double up on their instruments). Almost
everything is cranked through a synthesizer so you never hear
anything that might sound like straight jazz, or straight anything.
take a while to figure out that most of the time signatures are
pretty straight forward, that is until you get in sync with the
slippery but very catchy off-beat accents and beguiling counter
rhythms. And if you still can’t follow, you always know
you’re somewhere, and that theirs is exactly the kind of
music you require to get there – if being bushwhacked by
music is your thing.
The least important thing I can say about the concert is why I
didn’t particularly like it though I stayed to the end --
and, it must be said, I wasn’t displeased to note that my
mostly hirsuteless pate had grown back most of its mane. More
importantly, everyone loved the show, just as I immensely enjoyed
trying to figure out why.
Jazzist has already played Club
Soda thrice, and they will surely play it a fourth
time because what they do they do very well. While their music
may strike the ear as wild and excessively self-referential (code
for debauched), there is nothing aleatoric about it. At the root
of their mutant sound and its brute effects are strong melodies
that are twisted and bent into friendly shapes that wrap themselves
around the brain like a hard hat against a hail of bullets –
in the cool and hippest of places that don’t qualify as
venues until they fill with the sound of music and the bloated
society of the post-modern jaded who know where to go to fill
the holes in their souls.
gist. Can’t resist Jaga Jazzist.