Jamie Saft / Steve Swallow / Bobby Previte - You Don't Know The Life

Label: RareNoise, 2019

Personnel - Jamie Saft: keyboards; Steve Swallow: electric bass; Bobby Previte: drums.

jamie-saft-know-life.jpg

What an amazing sound Jamie Saft exudes from the Baldwin electric harpsichord on “Re: Person I Knew”. Rocking and grooving like if Sun Ra had joined forces with Deep Purple, this fresh take on the Bill Evans’ tune welcomes you to You Don’t Know Life, the third effort of the keyboardist with bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bobby Previte. The organ-centered album is a tempting combination of improvisations, standards, and Saft originals.

The three free improvisations almost don’t feel like such, considering that they naturally preserve backbone stability and follow a specific direction. “Dark Squares” is cooked patiently with nebulous synth chops at a medium-slow tempo. Sometimes noir, sometimes celestial, the tune has Saft choosing between long-held notes and staccato punctuation. “Breath From Water” flows steadily, suffused with Previte’s pervading drum timbres, which are even more authoritative on Roswell Rudd’s succinct “Ode To a Green Frisbee”. On the other hand, “The Break of the Flat Land” proves the less impetuous, more spacious of the three.

The effective bass/drums pairing provides a reliable structure, whether if the tune is tender, like the brushed waltzing “You Don’t Know the Life” by the psych-rock band Moving Sidewalks, or unnerving, such as Saft’s “The Cloak”, where soul music tries to fraternize with prog-rock, and its swinging continuation “Stable Manifolds”, which, after entering in the groovy territory of Jimmy Smith and Dr. Lonnie Smith, ends with caustic chromatic movements. Closing out the album in a low-key style are two standards, “Moonlight in Vermont” and “Alfie”.

This disc is a solid, accessible offering. It doesn't particularly feel like a shift in mindset, but rather a fun sculptural exploration of the organ trio format.

Grade  B

Grade B

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Re: Person I Knew ► 02 - Dark Squares ► 06 - The Cloak


Jamie Saft Quartet - Blue Dream

Label: RareNoise Records, 2018

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

jamie saft-blue-dream.jpg

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


Jamie Saft - Solo A Genova

Label: RareNoise Records

Personnel – Jamie Saft: piano.

jamie-saft-solo-genova.jpg

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.

        Grade  A

        Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
03 – Naima ► 04 – Sharp Dressed Man ► 07 – The New Standard/Pinkus