Jamie Saft Quartet - Blue Dream

Label: RareNoise Records, 2018

Personnel – Bill McHenry: saxophone; Jamie Saft: piano; Bradley Christopher Jones: bass; Nasheet Waits: drums.

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Exposing valuable technical skills and a lyricism of his own, Jamie Saft is one of the sharpest pianists working today. His second release of the year, following the grandiose and haunting Solo a Genova, is entitled Blue Dream, an illuminated work where transcendence is achieved through the creation of absolutely glorious emotional soundscapes. For this session, the artist brings together an astounding quartet with saxophonist Bill McHenry, bassist Bradley Christopher Jones, and drummer Nasheet Waits, all of them supportive teammates and top-flight improvisers.

Vessels”, a pure modal jazz inspiration, conveys an unmitigated spirituality through the divine harmonic progressions. Besides the beautiful collective work, McHenry, in an act of pure instinct and inspiration, offers an inside-outside prayer in the line of Archie Sheep, Pharaoh Sanders, and Billy Harper. The meditative “Infinite Compassion” also follows the same steps, presenting us transfixing piano voicings with a few sweeps and swirls reminiscent of Alice Coltrane, while the eruptive “Words and Deeds” is stirred and shaken by the tremendous force of McHenry’s searing lines.

Submerged in a soulful, blues-based post-bop, “Equanimity” starts with Waits’ impeccable rhythmic facility, proceeding with Coltrane-inspired saxophone phrases, and landing on Saft's rich patterns replete with cascading notes, congruous runs, and occasional motivic inflections over a swinging bass-drums workflow. Forming an unfading alliance, Jones and Waits swing hard again on the title track, even with Saft exploring calmly in an opposite direction, and also intermittently on “Decamping”, a straightforward post-bop exercise. Both tunes feature enthusiastic bass solos.

The quartet ascends into heaven on “Sword’s Water”, a feverish splendor containing dense and contrasting low/high-toned piano maneuvers, bursting saxophone lines uttered with authority, taciturn arco bass, and abundant cymbal activity.

The evanescence on the spacious “Walls” is caused by dark classical piano moves and mournful bowed bass, while “Mysterious Arrangements” carries a slightly Latin touch in the rhythm. The group's versatility is taken further with the addition of three jazz standards gently propelled by Waits’ understated brushwork - the blithe “Violets for Furs”, the solo-less “Sweet Lorraine”, and the mellifluous “There’s a Lull In My Life”. Even conjuring a familiar feel, they never sound decontextualized in regard to the whole.

Impressively executed with great feeling, Blue Dream makes you plunge into aurally transparent sonic waters that open your soul, clear your mind, and more than satisfy your ears. Saft’s music touches me deeply and it feels awesome to be enveloped by his voluble and devotional reverberations.

        Grade  A

        Grade A

Favorite tracks:
01 - Vessels ► 02 - Equanimity ► 03 - Sword’s Water