This pairing seems as unlikely as Deep Purple’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra did back in the seventies yet it works, possibly rather better than the Purp’s efforts judging from its place in the classic rock pantheon. Jaga Jazzist’s effort has some chance of standing the test of the time because this performance captures their latter day prog inventiveness coupled with the tonal riches and majesty that only an orchestra can deliver. It is also a fully combined effort, the Britten Sinfonia is an integral part of each piece, the arrangements are remarkable and a very positive reflection of this Norwegian ensemble’s capabilities. Almost an orchestra by most standards Jaga Jazzists is led by Lars Horntveth who plays tuba, flute and percussion and features powerhouse drum pummeller Martin Horntveth alongside seven other highly talented multi-instrumentalists
They use the full dynamic breadth of the orchestra and reinforce it with their own unique vision, a richly varied but purposeful and subtle view that gains an extra dimension in this setting. I was a little disappointed in One Armed Bandit, it couldn’t quite match the intensity of What We Must but this unexpected treasure has reaffirmed their position as one of the most inventive an interesting leaders on the extremely fertile Scandinavian progressive music scene.
There are a number of new compostions on this album alongside rearrangements of five from previous albums
Bananafleur Overalt has overtones of Sketches of Spain, Mathias Eick’s solo being distinctly Davis esque, the performance brings new dimensions to the piece without straying far from the framework of the original. The finale is an arrangement of JJ’s strongest piece to date Oslo Skyline is as gloriously noisy as ever, enhanced by distorted brass and the scale of the orchestra it must have made a phenomenal finale at the live event. I was surprised that the press release lead with with “It’s a live album, and when are those ever very exciting?” In my experience live albums can be among the very best but perceptions must differ. If this release doesn’t shift that notion then nothing will.