Jan 25, 2019
For the past five years, we’ve had a rare chance to hear the music of a kinder, gentler Jamie Saft. The prolific keyboardist-composer-producer-entrepreneur is known for his long association with the downtown aesthetic of John Zorn and Tzadik Records, and for bringing the sound of everything from death metal to dub into the jazz scene. Recording primarily for the RareNoise label for the past few years, he continues to show new and engrossing facets of his musical personality, whether in traditional formats like the piano trio, or with his fiercely improvisational group Slobber Pup.
His trio recordings with bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bobby Previte have been as mainstream as anything we’ve heard from Saft. Starting with The New Standard in 2014 and continuing with 2017’s trio plus Iggy Pop recording Loneliness Road, Saft has brought his compositional style to a far more traditional format than one might expect from him. The results have been striking, and moving in a way I didn’t always find in his more avant-garde recordings. That pattern continues with the release of You Don’t Know the Life, which finds the trio of Saft, Swallow and Previte moving on to the sound of the organ trio.
The is a unique group, and their strengths in avant-garde improvisation serve them well as they give us their take on the time honored Hammond sound. Swallow has to stand in for what is usually an electric guitar, and the result is marvelous – he sounds as good, if not better than ever providing his melodic, but supportive basslines. Previte is more than up to the task to play the necessary shuffles his take on groove, making what could be a cliché into something uniquely his. Saft moves from the Hammond to harpsichord (Bill Evans’ “Re: The Person I Know”) to the Whitehall Organ to obtain differing sounds and textures to bring out new facets in the material.
And what great material! From jazz classics like the Evans tune and “Moonlight in Vermont” (!) to Bacharach & David (“Alfie”) to the title track, a rethinking of a pre-Z.Z.Top Billy Gibbons psychedelic guitar freak-out from the late 60’s. The highlight for me is the closest thing to soul-jazz on the album, soul-jazz “Stable Manifold.”
Podcast 656 gives you the chance to hear me speak with both Jamie Saft and Bobby Previte about their collaborations, and the nature of improvisational music in the hands of three masters of thier instruments. Musical selections include Roswell Rudd’s “Ode to a Green Frisbee”, “Re: The Person I Know”, and “Alfie”.