Jaga Jazzist

"A sterling performance from an exciting and innovative outfit"

Nine people is usually too many in most situations. Fitting nine people in your average lift is pretty annoying, and if you turn up to a library with eight other people in tow there’ll stern looks aplenty thrust upon you.

However, when it comes to Norwegian progressive jazz-rock, nine – it seems – is the musical equivalent of baby bear’s porridge, as demonstrated by Jaga Jazzist, who tonight were playing the only UK date of an extensive European tour (in support of their marvellous new album ‘One-Armed Bandit’) at the bizarrely overlooked Islington Academy.

(Just for the record, if the 29 members of I’m From Barcelona turned up at a library trying to hire a copy of the latest John Grisham they’d be told to fuck right off, and rightly so)

Thankfully, all nine members of Jaga Jazzist were essential components of what was a compelling live performance, with instruments swapped, solos played and improv sessions initiated throughout the night.

Highlights from a substantial set – two encores, no less – included the title track from ‘One-Armed Bandit’ (with other tracks from the album also sounding good), the superb bebop mentalism of ‘Animal Chin’ and ‘Lithuania’, still sounding like the best track that never made it on to the soundtrack of The Thomas Crown Affair (the original, not the remake with the vomit-inducing smugness of Pierce Brosnan).

The more epic tracks from ‘What We Must’ were also given a new lease of life in a live context and several tracks from the jazz-heavy and excellent ‘Livingroom Hush’ also made a welcome appearance.

Towards the end of the night, one member of the band (sorry – nine appears to be too many to distinguish between after four pints) got his Louis Armstrong on with an extended wailing trumpet solo, shortly before the band indulged in a whig-out session which had a tinge of 8-bit glitchiness to it thanks to some twisted synthesiser work. Very nice.

Overall, a sterling performance from an exciting and innovative outfit whose live reputation is indeed well-deserved. No signs of the band resting on their laurels here, which is just what we like to see.

Words by Tristan Parker

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