Label: RareNoise Records
Personnel – Jamie Saft: piano.
Solo a Genova, the first solo album in 25 years by pianist Jamie Saft, a blistering figure in the art of playing the keyboard, is actually something special.
To better face the political instability in the US, the pianist resorted to originals and a number of American songs, in an attempt to resist hatred and negativity through art. Showing a strong affinity for disparate musical genres and operating a 9-foot Steinway Model D piano for a grandiose sound, Saft designs astonishing soundscapes with biting audacity and infallible inspiration.
He takes off on a soulful voyage that has its first landing on “The Makings Of You”, a soul hit by Curtis Mayfield, where he induces a greater emotional force than the original itself. Yet, nothing compared to the splendor achieved with “Human/Gates”, a lyrical rubato exercise that seamlessly melds Human League’s ‘80s synthpop song “Human” with “Gates”, a composition of his own. The relentless work on the lower register in coalescence with far-reaching sweeps on the last two-thirds of the keyboard is even more accentuated on “Naima”, an unforgettable introspective rendition of the Coltrane’s classic. Another jazz masterpiece in the lineup is “Blue in Green”, so many times delivered since it saw the daylight in 1959, but thriving here with a unique touch of brilliance.
Attaining homogeneity with the whole, “The New Standard/Pinkus” packages two originals previously recorded by the keyboardist. The former, finding hope through a melodious crossing between Bill Evans and Brad Mehldau, appeared on Swallow/Saft/Previte’s album of the same name (RareNoise, 2014), while the latter is a recital on how to fuse modal jazz, American folk, blues and classical, which appeared on Borscht Belt Studies (Tzadik, 2011), New Zion Trio’s Chaliwa (Veal Records, 2013), and Swallow/Saft/Previte’s Loneliness Road (RareNoise, 2017).
While Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed” feels thankful and illuminated, ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man”, despite the abstraction of its first minutes, feels more like a spiritual hymn provided with classical routines and epic harmonic turnarounds rather than a rock smasher.
The pianist also plunges into the aesthetic traditions of American folk-rock with very personal renditions of tunes by Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. He maintains the humor on the latter’s “Po’ Boy”, which brims with bluesy lines and honeyed popular charisma.
Tossing passing notes with pinpoint accuracy to better express his nimble pianistic movements, Saft pays a beautiful homage to American music through a work that sheds light on the depth of his talent.
03 – Naima ► 04 – Sharp Dressed Man ► 07 – The New Standard/Pinkus