Jaga Jazzist: A Living Room Hush (2002) by Joe North

“We stopped playing and just sat in silence, listening to the sinister bass clarinet play the devious melody…”

This post was contributed by jazz master, multi-instrumentalist and interplanetary explorer, Mr. Joe North. You can check it some of Joe’s work on his personal website, http://www.joenorthmusic.com. 

When most of the public thinks about “jazz” as a genre, they imagine the giants such as Trane, Miles, Diz, Mingus, and Art Blakey (just to name a few of the household names). These dudes are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the genre as a whole and when you talk about “contemporary jazz,” the general population looks at you like you have 4 heads.

There is much out there to find in terms of thriving jazz and jazz influenced musicians. One of my personal favorites comes from the Norwegian Nu Jazz genre. Jaga Jazzist and their album “A Living Room Hush” earned BBC’s title of Best Jazz Album of 2002 by blending jazz, electronica, and hints of classical composition. This album truly is a masterpiece.

My buddy Pat first showed me these guys on our trip up to Boston for the high school Berklee Jazz Festival when I was 16. As any other 16 year old, I couldn’t really appreciate what I was listening to and just thought “Oh yeah this is cool, now let me listen to my Blink 182 in peace.” Pat and I ended up going to SUNY Fredonia together as saxophone players where he introduced me to a drummer named Mike. Mike, Pat, and I became close friends and hung out together often, whether we were in bands together, drinking buddies, or just hanging around listening to music. Mike was a big fan of Jaga himself.

One evening I remember in particular was when Mike and I were playing chess in his apartment and he pops on this album. “Ever heard of these guys?” “Yeah, Pat showed me them back in high school but never listened to them since.” A few moves later, the track Airborne came on. We stopped playing and just sat in silence, listening to the sinister bass clarinet play the devious melody in the opening to the track, almost to the point where it sounded like a tenor sax. It was awesome, but not in the way I typically use that word (if you know me, I use that word pretty regularly as a word for describing pizza, chinese food, roller coasters, and other regular items). But in this sense, I was full of awe, full of an overwhelming sense of admiration.

Every track on this album is in fact awesome in the literal sense. I could go on and on with personal stories for each song but I will let you make your own memories. After you listen to this album, then check out “What We Must.”

Suitable for: Alone time

Appropriate playback device: Car stereo or nice over ear headphones

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