the night that vikings stormed lincoln hall

1 Jul

What is it about Scandinavian musicians that makes them so inherently cool?!

Sigur Rós, Lykke Li, Little Dragon, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (aka NHOP–wizard of the upright bass); the list goes on. And, c’mon: no one except for Björk could pull off a dress fashioned out of a swan.

I mean, these folks could probably make a bass clarinet seem hip onstage.

Oh wait, Jaga Jazzist already did that. Tenfold.

Wednesday night at Lincoln Hall, nine talented, tall, blonde, bearded Norwegian men took to the stage and absolutely killed it. I’d only very recently become a fan of Jaga Jazzist (thanks Justin!), who have been  described as experimental jazz (these guys cite Coltrane and Charles Mingus as two of their biggest influences). But if I had to describe them, it would probably go something like this: heady modern jazz, flavored with a tasty rack of electronics, an innate sense of fluidity and dynamics, and a dash of Zappa. Add an explosive live show, and you’ve got Jaga Jazzist.

Sure, I was expecting some talented musicians. From the keyboardists, guitarists, and two bass players (yup, one on electric, one on upright, often playing simultaneously) to the tromboner, trumpet player and multi-woodwind player (soprano sax, bass clarinet, flute), everyone was obviously on top of their shit. Then there was the drummer: a pointy-bearded time bomb waiting to go off. Sometimes drummers are just necessary members of the band, there to keep time and/or spontaneously combust. Martin Horntveth was the heart that pumped out to the other eight Jaga organs, controlling the dynamics, groove, and atmosphere, not to mention mesmerizing the entire crowd, particularly when he addressed us with his irresistible nordic accent.

But what really got me was how tight this band was. They segued seamlessly from song to song, bringing the crowd on a journey that sometimes had us headbanging to a ridiculous off-meter groove, sometimes trying not to breathe as the spotlight shone only on the vibes, singularly captivating everyone in the venue with a haunting melody.

For me, the most memorable song of the night was the title track off Jaga’s latest album, One-armed Bandit. The relentless bass line–doubled in the bass clarinet–coupled with catchy melodies in the keys and woodwinds and countermelodies in the brass and vibes make this song groove so hard. Add in Hornsveth’s complex, intense beats and you’ve got a mind-blowing live number.

Now (maybe this is just the Captain Morgan that we downed in the alley before the show talking, but still), I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Jaga Jazzist is the best live show I’ve seen in a looooong time. I think this band might be just exactly what I’ve been looking for…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: