Jaga Jazzist, the Norwegian multi-instrumental boundary-busters, may occupy a niche, but it feels like an enduringly spacious and fertile one, where sounds that recall everything from Weather Report to big-band jazz, krautrock, Radiohead or even the Pat Metheny Group intertwine. Last year’s 20th anniversary retrospective was fascinatingly diverse, but Starfire – conceived in composer Lars Horntveth’s new Los Angeles home, rather than in Oslo – is a more densely layered and studio-dominated deployment of this band’s awesome resources. The title track is classic Jazzist: a sound like the Shadows driven by a marching-band thump skids through power-chord guitar hooks and Zappaesque melodic zigzags; the atmospheric Big City Music is a masterly balance of quickfire rhythm-section ingenuity and the instrumental diversity of guitars, keys and brass. The tunes remain quirkily dramatic and the thematic scene-shifting spectacular, but a little thinning-out would have let Jaga Jazzist’s uniquely mercurial music breathe more.
”Little Things” is the debut album by Norwegian singer and songwriter Hanne Hukkelberg.
Given the depth of Jaga Jazzist's sophistication and their wide-ranging musical vision that encompasses everything from free jazz to hip-hop, from techno to funk, from rock to modern composition, this Norwegian ensemble is a natural partner for a collaboration with the internationally renowned Britten Sinfonia under the direction of Christian Eggen. The material was chosen from JJ's catalog (particularly from the One-Armed Bandit album, which they were touring in support of), and is beautifully arranged, performed, and recorded. While the lengthy treatment of "One-Armed Bandit" opens with strings, brass, and winds playing something that resembles a cadenza from one of the Sinfonia's namesake's symphonies, it quickly quiets down into the nearly pastoral for a few minutes before JJ enters with a persistent beat-head pulse, and the piece morphs into a symphonic, progressive jazz workout with a fantastic array of colors.