Yes, yes, we know what you’re thinking. It’s a live album, and when are those ever very exciting? But just remember that they really can be, and trust us when we say that this one really, truly is. Like a modern day Live at Leeds, like the benevolent, neon twin of Live Evil, Jaga Jazzist’s wondrous new record is just that; a brilliant album on its own terms. It’s a psychedelic Bond soundtrack twisting and turning from the stage, propelling the listener forward on an epic emotional voyage. At times it seems to explode from the speakers in pure, exuberant colour, making you wonder if you’ve recently developed synesthesia. It moves with unrestrained ease from quiet reflection to cinematic, widescreen thunder, from Sound of Music pastoral joy to pulsing jazz chase sequences… and it makes you wonder why more of the music you hear isn’t quite so completely affecting.
Jaga Jazzist had long wanted to work with an orchestra, and when the British radio DJ Fiona Talkington introduced them to the Britten Sinfonia, they leapt at the chance to collaborate. The Barbican’s Chris Sharp promised to stage the results, and the team set about writing the work from scratch. Jaga wanted to make each musician feel like a central part of the performance, and this philosophy paid off in full. The music is full of exuberance and passion, each player becoming an equal part of a startlingly purposeful hive-mind.
Jaga have always taken a rigorous approach to their art, and they wanted to use the opportunity afforded by the album to push their own creativity forward. As such, they broke new ground personally. ‘Mathias’ trumpet solo on Bananfluer Overalt is probably my favourite moment on the album,’ says the group’s writer and creative driving force Lars Horntveth. ‘He really shines here and has the space and time to improvise in a way he hasn’t been able to do before with Jaga alone.’
That says a lot about this brilliant, unique record. It’s not often that an album comes along that offers so much. Its quieter moments could equal Shostakovich’s explorations of mortality, its full throttle thrusts match the visceral thrill of any young guitar band. We’d suggest that you won’t be disappointed in a listen, and that it might just change your day for the better.