Roger Roger & Nino Nardini
Jazz, Dramatic






I can fully understand if an album title such as Jazz, Dramatic does not lead to the same rapid heartbeat – let alone click rates – as other, much more exotic works, but this slick antrum of 13 sparklers by long-time collaborators and close friends Roger Roger (1911–1995) and Nino Nardini (1912–1994) is a corker! Released in 1968 on the library music label Southern Library Of Recorded Music, it dedicates one side to each composer, but you would not even know who is responsible for which side, as the efforts are very focused and cohesive. Why should the listener care for library music in general and the duo’s music in particular? Well, in my humble opinion, it is not enough to know Nardini’s and Roger’s opum naturalis Jungle Obsession (1971).


Granted, this album is a real keeper, and even if you know just this particular work, you can have much more joy with contemporary works, especially so with The Left Arm Of Buddha’s Exotica Music And Other Savage Stuff! (2013), as it contains hidden homages to Jungle Obsession. Still, I think that the complete works of Roger & Nardini are eminently valuable, regardless of whether you are about to listen to an African safari as in Afro, Spooky (1972) or multitudinous Moog-fueled Space-Age propulsions in Informatic 2000 (1982). Whatever the topic, the effort is always charged with excitement. On Jazz, Dramatic, the gentlemen enmesh funky ingredients such as harpsichords, electric bass protrusions and a hi-hat galore with exotic or Afro-Cuban ingredients such as flutes, horns, bongos and congas. The melodies are not always sun-soaked, but every composition is delightful. The styles range from Exotica (duh!) over Crime Jazz to cinematic Funk escapades. Don’t let the generic front artwork fool you, this artifact is deemed important enough to be reviewed in-depth at AmbientExotica. So here we go.


Side A is reserved for Roger Roger. The album title sounds farther away from the Exotica topic (and topos) than ever, true, but not the presented material on this gem, and nothing proves this more efficiently than Roger’s opener Coconut Coast, a Rimini-fied piece of a tropical reverie with only the slightest hints of finger cymbals percussion-wise. Uniting heavenly steel guitar twangs, cheekily murky trombone accents in tandem with echoey trumpets and mellifluous flutes, this tune is hyper-dreamy, spawning the heat and moisture of a sunny day. And for you Space-Age fans: twirling harpsichord splinters. Rococo meanwhile is one of those pointillistic-tipsy military marches laden with comic relief. Oompah scents and bumblebee brass flecks are united here. Unpack your quillings if you want, but this one’s a downer and rare dud. Pretty Groovy leads the listener to a raunchy Jazz club, the harpsichord is raucous, the brass instruments despicable, the wave-like undulation of the double bass heinous. Roger Roger seems to be on the prowl in this slick theme of a moonlit metropolis.


While Mister Easy depicts a designedly dim-witted flute-and-harpsichord mélange with calypsofied marimbas of the sun-dappled kind, Queue Jumper showcases a hectic frenzy with cavalcades of staccato tones; only the harpsichord is allowed to sport a glissando. The jungle flute and coruscating hi-hat hits work well, as does the backdrop which houses a quiescent melody of madness. Wet Blanket could have well appeared on the Roger Roger Ensemble’s aforementioned Afro, Spooky, as it admixes a cursed melody of an enigmatic haunted house with gleefully wonky marimba blebs and electric bass lines that go du-dum. The finale of side A then comes in the shape of Water’s Edge, a Dream Pop hymn with languorous but blue harpsichord coils which interact with an aqueous flute melody. Cleverly added hall effects let this beatless Ambient piece appear cavernous and contemplative.


Side B offers seven cuts by Nino Nardini. Interaction is the most histrionic piece of cinematic proportions on the whole LP, slowly augmenting its soft kick-off phase full of blurry horns with their majestic brethren, somewhat resemblant of a daybreak or enlightening. Exotica merges with Funk in the following Passion Fruit, and this track could have derived from Mike Simpson’s Jungle Odyssey (1966) without any problem, as the five-note harpsichord backing clashes with the paradisiac conga-backed flute melody. Sunny yet deliberately warped and weird, Nino Nardini makes sure that the harmonious parts outweigh the bewildering ones. Lousy Guitar then ventures into calcined – or worse: cauterized – cellars full of harsh electric guitar coils of asbestus. More of a jam session than a carved out track, the adjacent classic drum kit drives, fuels and teases the guitar to go more awry than before… and the stringed instrument willfully succumbs. This is Nino Nardini's intrinsic misstep.


Whereas Flute Blues encapsulates the archetypical double bass billows of Crime Jazz and merges them with a softened alto flute and dubious harpsichord tones for the umpteenth time, the Exotica dob Mango Girl turns out to be a blast, as Nino Nardini concocts pentatonic reed layers and places these Far Eastern traits in-between a scintillating percussion placenta of jungle drums, triangles and cowbells. Laid-back and mysterious, it caters to the taste of Exotica fans who favor Japanized hooks. Soothsayer closes the album with a soundscape that lives up to the title. Absorbing the Far Eastern spirits of Mango Girl and entrapping them in a crystal ball, the bassline is funky and, it has to be said, eminently dirty and impure, the flute whirls through the ether, with the expected harpsichord shimmering through the interstices. The soothsayer’s tent smells of herbs. This assertion even makes sense if we take into account that this is just music.


The Southern Library Of Recorded Music is a treasure chest in terms of a very specific kind of library music, and especially so due to the many releases of Roger Roger and Nino Nardini. Jazz, Dramatic is no different in the end, and even though the title is not entirely de trop if one takes pieces like the swelling Interaction or the Honky Tonk smoke screen that is Pretty Groovy into account, it is too arbitrary and bland in the given scheme. This fact alone does not prevent the dedicated listener to check it out, for, alas, there is another obstacle: Jazz, Dramatic has never been reissued, let alone remastered in digital form. Whereas the biggest library label De Wolfe Music opens its fully-stocked archives step by step, Roger’s and Nardini’s long-term house label went out of business, with copyright issues and a general disinterest – compared to, uh, Beyoncé’s music – preventing a greater availability.


Add the same old white-blue cover, and even the biggest Exotica or Space-Age fan thinks twice about investing in it. But Jazz, Dramatic is a little rascal that is worth checking out: Exotica songs such as Mango Girl, Passion Fruit and Coconut Coast already carry mellowness in their titles, but see their dreamy state distorted by funkiness and harpsichord helixes aplenty. Even the less exotic material knows to enchant in one way or the other, for there are no estranging letdowns besides Nardini's all too emaciated Lousy Guitar and Roger's perfumed harpsichord house Rococo on the album, and even that tune is at least self-explanatory. Jazz, Dramatic is a no-brainer for fans of the duo. Everyone else who likes their Funk to penetrate Exotica or vice versa, head over to eBay, GEMM and other market places. This LP should be worth your while.


Exotica Review 325: Roger Roger & Nino Nardini – Jazz, Dramatic (1968). Originally published on Mar. 22, 2014 at