I don’t know about you, but whenever I think about jazz, I get this mental image of a couple of older dudes playing some sad tunes in a nearly deserted bar filled with smoke. Now, first of all, I know I watch a little too many movies, since this seems to be a cliche straight out of a bad movie, and second, I know for a fact that it takes more than just a good taste to really appreciate something as sophisticated as a good jazz band.
Why am I bothering with this? Jaga Jazzist is not exactly a jazz band after all. Jaga Jazzist is actually one of the best examples of a relatively recent trend called nu jazz, which of course, as the name implies, has something to do with jazz, but is not exactly jazz in the traditional sense. It differs from conventional in the sense that the force behind this album is not in the mood and atmosphere, but is more song driven, each having its own arguments and strong points, and even more important, the genre allows for a great deal of experimentation between traditional jazz elements with electronic music, creating a whole new concept that not only is surprisingly fresh and innovative, but also provides the best of both worlds… Think of it as a night of heavy drinking without the hangover the next day. How so? Well, you get to experiment the calm and reflexive nature of jazz at the same time that you’re enjoying some fast paced electronic beats. That’s a win/win in my book.
I truly enjoy the fact that Jaga Jazzist tends to thicken their productions, because you see, you would have thought that something that derives from jazz would feature the minimal amount of instruments and you can call it a day, but oh no, this feels more like a thick paste rather than skim milk, just to make a vague analogy. Beware though, this isn’t me saying that this is all facade but with no real substance where it matters, because The Stix has enough elements to stand on its own as a very interesting and somewhat abstract experiment.
The funny thing though is that all this attention to detail and meticulous care when stuffing the sound with a lot of different flavors isn’t what gives this album its more important and distinctive trait. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered the wide array of feelings carried in the same vehicle, as one moment I was witnessing what I thought was the musical representation of an abstract and intense outburst of talent that could very well have been used to cover some canvas with millions of possible combinations of colors and shapes… And the very next minute I was being part of what I can only describe as the most disturbingly beautiful and peaceful combination of mellow and strangely familiar tunes.
The Stix is not all about contrasts, and while it can vary greatly through its 53 minutes of duration, it never falls out of the boundaries of the genre. It is consistent in delivering a concept, rather than an experience to be honest, and it becomes a statement about seeing things from a different perspective, living something through different eyes and finding that moment of awe and amusement while you realize it is happening. Day and Another Day are the most easily recognizable examples of this, the first being easily one of the best tracks of the album, and having one right after the other gives the second a sense of being the reinterpretation, the fruit of the inspiration given by the first one, or just a look at the same concept through different points of view, you decide.
A steady pace, paired with an elegant and very consistent style, adorned with lots of energetic performances… That is The Stix in one phrase. This is the perfect jazz album for those who don’t like jazz.