Jaga Jazzist

The Stix

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The second full-length by Norwegian jazz enfant terribles Jaga Jazzist proves to even the most ardently pigheaded that their debut, A Livingroom Hush, was no fluke. (Jazz "purists" -- as if jazz were a "pure" music -- will even have to take note on compositional, swing, and improvisational levels but will no doubt, like any music fascist, dismiss this as somehow inauthentic because of the presence of electronics.) The Stix ups the ante a notch and foregoes much of the restraint displayed on the previous album, delving deeper into jazz motifs and the latest innovations in electronic music with a vengeance. Featuring ten original compositions by Lars and Martin Hornveth, Jurgen Munkeby, and others from the ensemble, The Stix moves into realms of ensemble interaction that cross barriers of swing, soundtrack architectures, sampladelica, and modal jazz often in the same tune. Melodic lines become riffs that give way to ensemble counterpoint and solo improvisations. Here, as on "Another Day," horns, electric guitars, looped snares, acoustic bass, strings, and an insane, treated trumpet solo offer a view from the pastoral to the incendiary in a seamless fugue of harmonic and scalar interludes. Likewise the strange sci-fi Braziliana and shimmering electronics at the heart of the futuristic bossa "I Could Have Killed Him in the Sauna" offer a futuristic view of Charles Mingus and his Tijuana Moods album if it were recorded in the 21st century. It has all the chamber pieces and the intimacy of close-distance group interplay and the expansive view of the terrain and atmospherics to offer the listener an aural view of a universe, ever present yet just beyond her reach. Once again, Jaga Jazzist have proven that the European jazz identity is a highly individualistic one and reflects different musical considerations in regard to mood, texture, and communication and a powerful set of dynamic perceptions to stand outside everything of concern and makes it human, warm, and vibrant -- all of our musically racist notions about Scandinavia are blown to bits here over and again. This music is compelling, hip, groundbreaking, and stunningly, achingly beautiful as well as challenging. The Stix needs top be recognized as one of the finest jazz records of 2003. Period.

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