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Jamie Saft: Solo a Genova

Doug Collette By

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Jamie Saft's first solo album in his twenty-five year career, Solo A Genova, captures this restless, daring artist interpreting a selection of songs that reflect his eclectic taste as a reflection of his customary willingness to challenge himself. The sum effect of hearing this recording from Italy in March of 2017 is an altogether glorious experience made all the more stirring by the inclusion of audience applause: while the response of the attendees is hushed, perhaps out of respect, it's more likely subdued because those present in real time, hearing the end of a particular tune, become quietly roused as if from a dreamlike state, not wholly sure how transformative is what they've been hearing.

Resources are available wherein Saft offers fascinating insight into his thinking behind the choices of material and how he approached them, but such information, erudite as it is, can't compare to hearing this music as he plays it, ruminating on same in the moments in which he is playing, then further contemplating those sensations. Take Bob Dylan's "Restless Farewell," for instance: while the logic is (over?) obvious in positioning this early tune of the Bard's at the end of the recital, the air emanating from Saft's playing has less a sense of closure than an open-ended, forward-thinking attitude, fully in keeping with the abiding change of personal consciousness he hears in the song.

Jamie takes a more pragmatic approach to "Po' Boy," from Bob's latter-day album Love And Theft (Columbia, 2011), exploring the melodic nuances in depth without losing the intrinsically playful tone of the tune. The long-time collaborator of Bobby Previte, John Zorn and on a multiplicity of projects, takes a decidedly different tack for Joni Mitchell's "Blue Motel Room:" embracing the melancholy at the heart of the Canadian chanteuse's song, Saft then allows himself to become immersed in that emotional state of being as a means to explore it and thus better fathom it.

Given his array of endeavors ranging from trio outings featuring Iggy Pop, Loneliness Road (RareNoise, 2017 ) and the two-man outing with Bill Brovold, Serenity Knolls (RareNoise, 2017), it should come as no surprise Saft is ever the student, a quarter century into his professional career. Even still, the relish with which he approaches Charles Ives' "The Housatonic at Stockbridge" is nevertheless startling because he renders the composition with the vigor of a musician simultaneously reaching a measurably greater understanding of the piece and, with no little abandon, pushing himself further into the intricacies of its changes.

Regular covers of songs from that 'Little Ol' Band from Texas' are de rigeur for Jamie Saft, but performances like this one of ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man" hardly sound pro-forma. Rather, the translation to piano from an electric guitar-based arrangement for a trio posits new avenues for this resident of upstate New York to travel, in and around its structure. Similarly, his take on Curtis Mayfield's "The Makings of You" clarifies its sophistication as much in the emotional as chordal underpinnings of the number. Solo A Genova captures the spontaneity of this extended moment on stage, perhaps even more so than during the rendition Miles Davis/Bill Evans collaboration "Blue In Green."

Jamie Saft's first release of 2018 will no doubt leave those who hear it anticipating the next with Bill McHenry, Brad Jones, and Nasheet Waits, the Jamie Saft Quartet's Blue Dream (RareNoise, 2018). No doubt that, even if stylistically or conceptually that work may bear only scant resemblance to this one, there's little doubt the project will manifest the same roundly exploratory concentration this man has evinced in the years leading up to (and including) this landmark entry in a discography that deserves to be described as kaleidoscopic.

Track Listing: 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.

Personnel: Jamie Saft: piano.

Title: Solo a Genova | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: RareNoiseRecords

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Solo a Genova

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