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Album Review: Jaga Jazzist – Starfire

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One of the most important concepts in modern music is fusion. Each style of music can only be advanced so far, but when you start borrowing from other genres the possibilities are much more endless. This mentality is the inspiration behind the album Starfire by Jaga Jazzist. This album is a true fusion album as it uses the conventions of both electronic dance music and modern jazz to create a very new and unique sound. On the electronic side of things, the album really fits into each of the typical conventions. Just on the surface the album sounds like electronics. The group uses many different synthesized electronic and digital sounds to create repetitive melodies that build in energy leading into each other. It’s not so much distinctive bass drops as it is smooth transitions from section to section, but the effect is essentially the same; energy is being manipulated in different ways. Also, whenever the music stays in 4/4 for extended periods of time it drives like a piece that would be used for dancing (hence the term electronic DANCE music). When the piece shifts into a more typically modern jazz time signatures the feel changes quite a bit, but it is very interesting to these contrasting ideas of meter used harmoniously.

The album also fits quite well into the conventions of modern jazz. The first thing to note is the improvisational nature of the album. Although the melodies may be repetitive, the album maintains a more spur of the moment feel than your typical DJ set. The sounds interact with each other in real time in the same way a jazz quartet would collectively improvise giving the piece a very human quality. Another big idea on the album is new sounds.  Just as Wadada Leo Smith uses extended techniques to add new sounds to his band, Jaga Jazzist creates ‘newness’ by constantly using different combinations of acoustic and electronic sounds along with contrasting approaches to time feel.

I wouldn’t consider Jaga Jazzist completely earth shattering as this type of music fusion has been created before, but this is certainly a very intriguing new step in the field of electronic jazz and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to explore a new style of music.

-Review by Donovan Burtan