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DVD/Video/Film Reviews

Jaga Jazzist: Live at Cosmopolite

By Published: August 9, 2010
And yet, if all this sounds like gimmickry, rest assured that it's anything but. What Jaga Jazzist has managed to accomplish is exactly what so many are claiming needs to be done to keep jazz alive: find a way to appeal to a young demographic, and bring it into the music. If Jaga's roots in everything from post-minimalism to prog and post-rock make it seem distanced from the staid jazz tradition, its equal interest in the music of the larger ensemble work of Gil Evans
Gil Evans
Gil Evans
1912 - 1988
and Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
1922 - 1979
bass, acoustic
simply means that, as a group of relatively young players (some of them are now beginning to stretch into the far side of their thirties, though you'd never know it, other than a few receding hairlines and slightly expanding waistlines), Jaja Jazzist is finding ways to incorporate its own voracious musical appetites into music that's profound yet exciting; multilayered in its complexity yet never less than thoroughly approachable.

Jaga Jazzist From left: Ketil Vestrum Einarsen, Mathias Eick Line Horntveth, Erik Johannessen

If pianist Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
can cover Radiohead, Soundgarden and Nick Drake, why can't Jaga incorporate interest in music ranging from Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa
1940 - 1993
guitar, electric
, Gentle Giant and Tortoise into a kind of youthful big band music for the new millennium? What Live at Cosmopolite proves, unequivocally, is that it's possible to make music with broad appeal but without compromise, and deliver it in an exhilarating fashion that emulates its studio arrangements without exactly replicating them; instead, reshaping them for whatever instrumentation is on hand (in this case, with Ketil Vestrum Einaresen performing almost entirely on flutes, a much different complexion, say, than the more brass and keys-heavy incarnation that played at the 2010 Kongsberg Jazz Festival).

In addition to the 85-minute concert, Live at Cosmopolite also includes fifteen minutes of interview footage with the various members of Jaga Jazzist (in Norwegian, but with optional English subtitles). As ever, Martin Horntveth acts as the group's primary spokesperson, discussing the various challenges of starting and maintaining a group, though it's Lars who describes Jaga as an "idealistic family band" where everyone feels as though they're "fighting for a cause, a common higher goal." What becomes clear, throughout the interview and the concert, is that the best way to describe the group's music is not through the various inevitable comparisons. "It is a compliment that people recognize us," says Lars, "'That must be Jaga.' Because of the sound. The melodic qualities. Even if you hear something 10 years old, you hear that it's Jaga."

Jaga Jazzist From left: Martin Horntveth, Ketil Vestrum Einarsen, Harald Frøland Mathias Eick, Andreas Mjøs, Line Horntveth

The DVD also includes five music videos, from 2001's "Airborne" to 2006's "Synchronize Yr Watches," making Live at Cosmopolite a complete video document of Jaga Jazzist, up to its five-year break. With the critical and popular acclaim for One-Armed Bandit (many calling it Jaga's best disc to date), a touring schedule that's surprisingly ambitious for a group this size and filled with so many players busy with other projects, and recording in the works for a new live album, the story of Jaga Jazzist is far from over. But for a couple-hour synopsis of how Jaga Jazzist got to where it is now, Live at Cosmopolite is as good as it gets: well recorded, well played and beautifully presented.

Tracks: All I Know is Tonight; Stardust Hotel; For All You Happy People; Reminders; Swedenborgske Rom; Day; Another Day; Suomi Finland; Mikdao; Oslo Skyline; Animal Chin; I Could Have Killer Him in the Sauna. Bonus Features: Interview; Airborne video (2001); Animal Chin video (2002); Day video (2003); All I Know is Tonite video (2005); Syncrhonize Yr Watches video (2006).

Personnel: Harald Frøland: guitar and effects; Andreas Mjøs: guitars, vibraphone, omnichord, keyboards and percussion; Martin Horntveth: drums and MPC 4000; Ketil Vestrum Einarsen: flute, alto flute and percussion; Erik Johannessen: trombone and percussion; Lars Horntveth: guitars, Bb clarinet, bass clarinet, keyboards and saxophones; Even Ormsted: bass and SH-101; Mathias Eick: trumpet, upright bass, vibraphone and keyboards; Line Horntveth: tuba, percussion and vocals; Andreas Hessen Schei: syhnthesizers and Fender Rhodes; Lars Wabø: trombone.

Photo Credits

Photos captured from Jaga Jazzist: Live at Cosmopolite, courtesy of Smalltown Supersound

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