Jaga Jazzist (Esplanade, Singapore, 13 March 2007)

Before Tuesday’s Jaga Jazzist gig I’d listened to their albums now and then over the years but often found myself zoning out and switching to catchier stuff. Experimental jazz just doesn’t push my buttons the way squalling guitars or hip-hop beats do. But when choosing which Mosaic gigs to go for I had a hunch that they’d sound better live than they do in my bedroom, so I took the risk – and damn, if all risks we take in life could yield such amazing payoffs I’d be a self-made stock market trillionaire and spend my free time snowboarding nude down Everest.

You might think a band in love with the sound of their own music would be off-putting but Jaga Jazzist’s unadulterated joy in their performance is absolutely infectious. So many bands’ live shows end up somewhere near either end of the spectrum between pure technical finesse and pure showmanship – Jaga Jazzist simply show up at the sweet spot representing the perfect combination of both and live there the whole gig. They play tighter together than any philharmonic orchestra I’ve ever seen, but unlike any philharmonic orchestra I’ve ever seen they love having the audience clap along.

You know how on reality TV when people are imploring the viewers to vote them into the next round, they always promise they’ll give “200%” in order to improve and blah blah blah? Most people just say stuff like that without really thinking about it, but the Jaga Jazzist gig was like a live demonstration of what it should mean. After each song you can’t believe they still have the strength to continue. I’d assumed their rambunctious drummer/conductor/spokesperson was just trying to put on a good show for the start of the gig but would have to wind down his efforts soon enough to conserve energy. Instead, I think he only got more ebullient as the night wore on. As someone who’s played in an orchestra I can definitely tell you that long instrumental pieces are way more tiring than they might seem from the audience, and I only played the damn violin!

The highlight of the gig for me was the song Oslo Skyline, which they “renamed” Singapore Skyline for the night. It was a showcase of everything that had blown the audience away during the gig – their individual virtuosity, their breathtaking co-ordination as an ensemble, and the amazing light design (it had been really beautiful throughout the gig but reached its nadir here). It was one of the most memorable moments of live music I have ever had the privilege of experiencing, and earned an instantaneous and universal standing ovation.

If you think I’m veering into hyperbole, the truth is that any purely verbal description anyone could give of this gig would actually be an understatement. If you were there, I’m sure you understand what I mean. If you weren’t, beg, borrow or steal to make sure you watch them the next opportunity you get. You don’t need to like their music beforehand – I certainly didn’t, and I can’t even begin to imagine what this gig must have been like for someone who was already a big fan of their sound – as long as you love any music at all, just turn up and I truly believe they’ll do the rest.


  1. You know what I was doing on the night of 13 March 2007? I was munching on Pringles and watching Dragon Ball on Animax! Beat that!!

  2. Sorry, I zoned out after you said “spend my free time snowboarding nude down Everest”.

    Didn’t know you played in an orchestra. Pretty cool. I Thought you played the piano.

  3. James,
    I thought we had a family agreement that only Dad is allowed to make suggestive comments about my fiance.
    Don’t make me come over there and open a can of whup ass on ya. It’d be nasty, and by nasty I mean the bad kind of ‘nasty’, not that new kind where nasty actually means good. What’s with that anyway?

  4. Am glad you had such a good time at this gig, and I hope the subsequent Mosaic concerts were good too. It was very nice to meet both you and Alec, even though I found DJ Vadim a bit soporific (and I had to reveal my ridiculously poor pool skills to both of you).

    I am now on a ridiculously bad food comedown having sampled the best food Singapore has to offer. I got taken out for chilli crab at the Kopitiam near Potong Pasir and I can honestly say I feel I reached some form of transcendental like state of bliss whilst covered in crab and chilli sauce.

  5. Sharmila: Likewise, it was really nice meeting you! I especially appreciated the moment of cringe we shared on the dancefloor when Yarah Bravo started exhorting us to raise our fists if we were pacifists or whatever, and we agreed that our major problem with One Self was its emphasis on positive, uplifting hip-hop.

    Sorry to hear about the chilli crab cold turkey effects. :( I believe Tiger Beer does an annual chilli crab festival in London, though I doubt it would be quite the same as eating it here.

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