May 19, 2014
When I last heard from Jamie Saft, it was his wonderfully abrasive Black Aces CD from the collaborative Slobber Pup. He’s never without something wild and adventurous to perform, whether it’s got dub, klezmer or noise-rock as it’s leaping off point.
So imagine my surprise when I heard The New Standard, his trio recording with drummer Bobby Previte and bassist Steve Swallow for RareNoise. For nearly an hour, we find Saft alternating between piano and organ, playing straight ahead jazz scales and keys, and making thoughtful, melodic contributions to an album of original material, seven of which are Saft compositions. Improvsiation is always the key, as in any Saft recording, but this time the groove is up front and accessible, and the playing inviting and open.
Take "Blue Shuffle," which opens with a bluesy solo organ by Saft that recalls the great sound of Hammond B-3 masters of old. A minute in, Previte sets the beat, and the trio settles into an early '60s organ lounge vibe with Swallow walking on bass and Previte providing a supple backbeat.
For those who like their Saft on the avant-side, check out his latest collabroation with guitarist Joe Morris called Plymouth. The CD is comprised entirely of purely improvised music, Saft and Morris are joined by a rhythm section of bassist Chris Lightcap and drummer Gerald Cleaver, who have played together in various settings (including Morris' quartet) since the late '90s, and rising star avant-garde guitarist Mary Halvorson (a former student of Morris').
Where The New Standard is inviting to even the casual listener, Plymouth’s three long pieces demand attention, as Saft sets the stage with his tricked-out piano sound, and Morris and Halvorsen rip through their solos and duets in fuzzed out wonder. While it doesn’t reach the highs of Black Aces, Plymouth shows that even as he enters his mid-40’s, Jamie Saft isn’t ready to mellow out.