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Jamie Saft Quartet: Blue Dream

C. Michael Bailey By

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If RareNoise Records has a characteristic sound as ECM Records has a characteristic sound, that sound is defined Jamie Saft. Whether it is the unholy ministry of Slobber Pup or the plaintive solo piano of his recent Solo A Genova (RareNoise, 2018), multi-instrumentalist Saft has brought Giacomo Bruzzo's and Eraldo Bernocchi's eclectic-electric British label front and center of not just the jazz world, but the music world.

Saft has recorded widely, most notably with John Zorn, Wadada Leo Smith, Roswell Rudd, Iggy Pop, Marc Ribot, Bill Laswell, Cyro Baptista, and Dave Douglas. He is responsible for producing the most magnificent noise as evidenced on recordings like, Berserk!'s Berserk! (RareNoise Records, 2013) and Slobber Pup's Black Aces (RareNoise Records, 2013) and Pole Axe (RareNoise Records, 2015), along with his collaboration with guitarist Joe Morris on Plymouth (Rare Noise, 2014). Overlapping with his noisemaking is Saft's redefinition of acoustic jazz over the past five years as heard on: The New Standard (RareNoise, 2014); Ticonderoga (Clean Feed, 2015); Strength & Power (RareNoise, 2016); Loneliness Road (RareNoise, 2017); and Solo A Genova (RareNoise, 2018)

Jamie Saft's penetration of acoustic jazz continues with his present quartet recording Blue Dreams. Immediately, I thought of John Coltrane's great 1960's quartet, circa A Love Supreme. "Vessels" opens with sustained bass notes in a simple harmonic figure by Saft, very much in keeping the McCoy Tyner style of the time. Tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry plays Coltrane's part, without the screeching and loss of mind. Like an early '60s Coltrane solo, the ensemble begins simply before setting out to make a sonic statement, both musically and dramatically. "Equanimity" is introduced by drummer Nasheet Waits, when, at the 1:36 mark the rest of the band enters, anxious and excited. Bassist Bradley Jones carefully chooses his figures and times in such a way to propel the music in a swinging and unpredictable manner.

The first of three standard's, "Violets for Your Furs," reels the band back into mainstream mode, capturing the sound of 1950s Miles Davis. It is a beautiful revelation. "Sweet Lorraine" is taken at a loping pace, Saft playing between the lines with Jones' ever near-the-beat pulse avoiding temp tachycardia. McHenry plays as straight as Saft, quaint and beautifully. "Walls" offers an expansive answer to "Lorraine" with Jones providing a continuo arco. McHenry barley rattles the reeds, a sound like stretching parchment, while Saft favors his beloved low notes with sustain. Like a Coltrane performance, the piece is all introduction. It is worthwhile to consider that there is no resolution in music like this, only an extended consideration. "Words and Deeds" follows the same formula of the opening "Vessels," brooding and impressionistic. The final standard "There's a Lull in My Life" completes the recording beautifully and appropriately. McHenry first duets with Jones, Waits brushing in the background. By the time Saft gets there, things are well underway, introspectively. Within this musical microcosm, Saft and company blow the dust off of and update a storied method of performance.

Track Listing: Vessels; Equanimity; Sword’s Water; Violets for Your Furs; Blue Dream; Infinite Compassion; Sweet Lorraine; Walls; Decamping; Words and Deeds; Mysterious Arrangements; There’s a Lull in My Life.

Personnel: Jamie Saft Piano; Bill McHenry: tenor saxophone; Bradley Christopher Jones: acoustic bass; Nasheet Waits: drums.

Title: Blue Dream | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: RareNoiseRecords

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