Jazz originally comes from the need for experimentation and improvisation. Jaga Jazzist still embrace this with their newest album, Starfire. The first track and album namesake opens almost like an introduction to an older mystery or spy film, with its smooth guitar chords and flute features. As the track progresses, the rhythmic section starts making its presence felt and creates a rushed feeling in contrast to its opening movement until it becomes a chaotic, spastic percussion feature continuing until the end.
“Big City Music” is the longest song on Starfire, but the length is forgotten because of its hypnotic beats. Even with there being definite sections of differing beats, they all come together seamlessly with the help of the overall featuring of the trombone.
The third track, “Shinkansen,” follows and is also the name for Japanese bullet trains. With the ease of movement found in this track, the name fits. It begins more as a traditional instrumental piece that features the flute in the beginning, but then has the trombone to accompany it. About midway through the song flips and the electronics are front and center and remain prevalent until nearly the end. Overall, “Shinkansen” flows so easily and seems to highlight the instrumental/electronic union that Jaga Jazzist represent and how they recognize their classic jazz roots, but know where else they can take this music.
The final track, “Prungen,” initially unsettles the listener and continues with that. There are moments when the song takes on an Eastern/Morocco sound, but right before the listener can get comfortable the chaos that was heard in “Starfire” makes a reappearance. The chaos, though, does not win out and the return of the saxophone heard early ends the album rather proudly.
Jaga Jazzist hold true to the ideas of the jazz tradition, even though they don’t go about it in the same way as earlier musicians. The chaotic electronic beats that appear and reappear throughout Starfire are reminiscent of jazz improv drum solos; featuring “real instruments” like the flute and saxophone allow the band to hold onto the genre’s roots. Starfire shows where Jaga Jazzist want to take this experimentation.