This week's focus is Jaga Jazzist's One-Armed Bandit (Ninja Tune, 2010)
It's been five years since we last heard from Jaga Jazzists. The wait is over. The Norwegian nine-piece nu-jazz fusionists have returned with their strongest set to date, One-Armed Bandit.
What made Jaga Jazzist great in the past — the sick chops, the mind-boggling creativity, the melodic invention — is on full display on their new album. You can't help but imagine the ghost of Frank Zappa influencing the band from beyond. The intricate, hyper intelligent whimsy of Hot Rats/Grand Wazoo-era jazz-rock is an evident touchstone for this band. The title track in particular sounds like a sequel to Zappa's "Peaches in Regalia.
The band isn't shy about its progressive jazz rock influences and certainly has the ability to demonstrate them on tracks such as "Bananfluer Overalt" and "Touch of Evil." Another influence is contemporary minimalists, particularly Steve Reich, whose phasing technique is executed brilliantly on Jaga's "Toccata".
For all of its intricate instrumental interplay Jaga Jazzist still squeezes out some memorable hooks. The title track is a great place to start. While certainly no pop tune, its main melody is as memorable as they come, bolstered by strong counterpoint, a swinging rhythm section and an imaginative arrangement that has room for fat synths, brass, vibes and distorted and slide guitar.
Next time: Parov Stelar