Jaga Jazzist: Live With Britten Sinfonia

[30 May 2013]

By Logan Smithson

Jaga Jazzist, while not a household name to most people, is a group that has been together for many years now. The Norwegian experimental jazz band formed in 1994 as a group of teenagers with high aspirations and a love for music and songwriting. Featuring a deep line-up of members, Jaga Jazzist incorporates many sounds into their music, including trombone, trumpet, electric guitar, bass, vibraphone, bass clarinet, Fender Rhodes, tuba, and electronic synthesizers. The band has continuously evolved and experimented with different sounds and is responsible for bringing the nu-jazz movement to the Scandinavian Peninsula.

Over their tenure, Jaga Jazzist has put out a number of well-received albums, including fan favorites such as A Livingroom Hush and What We Must. These albums have displayed a growth in the electronic-jazz sound, offering energetic percussion accompanied by jazzy rhythms inspired by the saxophone compositions of John Coltrane or the free jazz style of Don Cherry, mixed with an influence of the jazzy rock side of Frank Zappa. These channels are tied seamlessly into an electronic / nu-jazz / post-rock mash-up that the Jaga Jazzist fans have gobbled up for the past decade and a half.

Those fans are exactly who this album was made to please. Live With Britten Sinfonia takes some of the band’s previous hit songs and puts them on display with an orchestra. Jaga Jazzist collaborated with Britten Sinfonia, a well-respected chamber orchestra ensemble from the United Kingdom, to bring a large, cinematic feel to their music. The effect of bringing in a live orchestra does exactly that. Live With Britten Sinfonia sounds strikingly powerful. The already immersive sounds of the familiar works of Jaga Jazzist are given a new light, as the overload of unique instruments come together in a harmony and make old songs feel new again. The live instrumentation brings an organic sound to the experience. When listened to on good speakers or a good pair of headphones, you can truly become immersed in the atmosphere as if the orchestra is playing right there with you.

The horns, keyboards, guitars, and drums play out a terrific live scene of jazz blending with rock and electronic. Jaga Jazzist has already made a name for themselves as being one of the best to do this, and made themselves known as one of the bands that originated this new style. So at the base, these sounds are nothing new or groundbreaking. However, these old songs sound original once again with the help of the accompanying Britten Sinfonia adding a new style to the songs that is dynamic and grand. Although the songs are quite lengthy, the band does its best to not allow the songs to become repetitive, offering new twists in the sound at every opportunity. While some listeners may find themselves getting bored throughout some of the ten minute tracks, others will fall in love and become immersed in the experience, not even realizing that time is whizzing by. Live With Britten Sinfonia is an album that is a perfect gift to longtime fans of Jaga Jazzist, but also a great treat for lovers of orchestral music and lovers of jazz.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/171660-jaga-jazzist-live-with-britten-sinfonia/