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Jaga Jazzist - One-Armed Bandit CD (album) cover


Jaga Jazzist


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.74 | 119 ratings

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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.

TechnicallySpeaking | 4/5 |


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