The nine piece Norwegian jazz-rock-experimental behemoth that is Jaga Jazzist return to the fray with their stunning new album, “One Armed Bandit”. All galloping rhythms, and grandiloquent reach, main man Lars Horntveth describes the new sound, tongue-a-little-in-cheek, as “Wagner meets Fela Kuti!” Certainly we find it harder to imagine a better soundtrack being written for the first Nollywood Viking epic.
Jaga Jazzist have become something of a musical phenomenon in Norway since they started out fifteen years ago. Not only is this instrumental band regarded as one of the most exciting and innovative in Norway, the members are all involved in other musical projects and have in one way or another contributed to almost every significant recording to come out of that part of the world in the last few years. Their albums sell huge quantities in their own country and massive crowds come to their shows. Their international acclaim is signalled by the fact that the new album was mixed in Chicago by John McEntire of Tortoise.
Lars Horntveth began writing the music for “One-Armed Bandit” early in 2008. Looking for a way between and beyond the band’s previous albums, “What We Must” and “The Stix,” Hornveth decided that everything would be charted and written out, noth more focussed and layered than ever before. One night, while listening to Fela Kuti, he came up with title-track “One Armed Bandit” and everything fell into place – a kinf of ride of the polyrhythmic acid-addled valkyries that scarecely lets up acorss the 53 minutes of the final album.
Having taken on two new members, Øystein Moen and Stian Westerhus, the band rented a house in the Swedish forest to rehearse “this new Zappa-esque, more humorous prog-rock music.” On their return they rehearsed endlessly, a new tune each week, until in December 2008 the band went to Cabin Recorders to put down the album with Jørgen Træen, their producer since the early days of the group. Unfortunately, through no fault of the band’s, Træen got tinnitus after three weeks, so the mixing was completed in Chicago by the band and none other than John McEntire.
At heart this collective is a restless soul, going in many directions at the same time, but always going forward. Fast. The band always push their boundaries, both personal and musical. That is why they are impossible to categorize. And that's why they're special. Jaga is something natural and beautiful. A necessity. For both them and us.