Pianist Jamie Saft's Solo A Genova is a revelation. It is, in an extensive discography, his only alone-in-the-piano-chair outing. Saft has made a wide-ranging mark in collaborations with Slobber Pup, Metallic Taste of Blood, The Spanish Donkey and Berserk! These group names don't say it all, but do probably say something (Brash? Unconventional? Loud?) about the sounds they make. But for the jazz fan of the more purist persuasion, his piano trio discs are probably the ones that find their way to the stereos: Asorath: Book of Angels, Vol 1 (Tzadik, 2005), The New Standard (Rare Noise, 2014), and the terrific Loneliness Road (Rare Noise, 2017). These trio sets feature commanding instrumentalists in the bass and drum chairs, making for a satisfyingly egalitarian approach to the craft.
Jamie Saft solo is different. Absent the driving rhythms of the trio sets, he proves himself strikingly virtuosic, lushly harmonic, and beautifully fluid.
Solo A Genova, as the title suggests, was recorded live in Genova, Italy, but it seems a celebration of America. The pianist covers tunes by quintessentially American artists (with a Canadian, Joni Mitchell slipped in), and he doesn't limit himself to Jazz Standards. Compositions by Curtis Mayfield, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis/Bill Evans, Stevie Wonder and Charles Ives are played out with playfulness (Dylan's "Po' Boy), doom (ZZ Top's Sharp Dressed Man); life affirmation (Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed") and solemn majesty (Ives' "Housatonic At Stockbridge).
While Saft's previously mentioned trio discs are uniformly excellent, playing the show alone seems to have freed his artistry. Solo A Genova showcases his uplifting, steeped-in-the-American-sound soul, closing with a gorgeous, got-religion take on Dylan's "Restless Farewell."
As a whole, the reverent nod to America serves as a balm for pains that come from our country's troubled times.
The Makings Of You; Human/Gates; Naima; Sharp Dressed Man; Overjoyed; Po' Boy; The New Standard/Pinkus; Blue Motel Room; The Housatonic At Stockbridge; Blue in Green; Restless Farewell.
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