The sophomore release by the Jamie Saft Trio is a provocative and entertaining statement. Trouble
attempts to reexamine Dylan's legacy from a Jewish point of view, as part of Tzadik's Radical Jewish Culture series, and to position Dylan as a Jewish role modelviews that Dylan most likely would have renounced immediately. But furthermore, Trouble
is provocative in its choice of Dylan compositions as well as their arrangements, and in these regards, Dylan may be more pleased. As Saft notes in his liner notes, "Blind faith is something Bob Dylan has resisted throughout his careermusically, spiritually and politically."
But more importantly, Trouble is a work of irreverent love that discovers the many facets of Dylan's music. The opening track, "What Was It You Wanted," from Oh, Mercy (Columbia, 1989), begins this tribute with a simple, straightforward blues with assured interplay by the core trio, comprised by Saft on piano, bassist Greg Cohen and drummer Ben Perowsky. The epic and poetic "Ballad of a Thin Man," from Highway 61 Revisited (Columbia, 1965), the earliest cover in this tribute, receives a melodramatic and playful reading by Mike Patton that may be more fluent than the usual ones, but it misses the distant irony and cynicsm of any interpretation by Dylan.
"Dignity," performed as a steady R&B standard, finds Saft on the Hammond organ. The simple and beautiful melody of "God Knows" is recovered from the breezy and easy to forget Under the Red Sky (Columbia, 1990), a release that did not present any meaningful lyrics by Dylan. "Trouble," taken from Dylan's born-again era, is another loose and open-ended melody that reveals the trio members as great storytellers. The personal and melancholic "Dirge," led by Cohen's measured pizzicato bass and economic playing by Saft and Perowsky, keeps the original reserved spirit of the song.
"Living the Blues," from the self-parody Self Portrait (Columbia, 1970), gets a theatrical reading by Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons), which may better match the period a decade later, when Dylan was smeared for going to Las Vegas, but the trio manages to redeem this banal song through playful interplay with the vocalist. The "Disease of Conceit," another gem from the great Oh, Mercy, is performed here as a slow gospel piece, with Saft leading ceremonially on the Hammond organ.
"Every man has his rabbilet me introduce you to mine," concludes Saft in his liner notes. He proves himself a knowledgeable and devout disciple of Dylan, but one who is not shy from rebeling and reexamining his "rabbi" legacy.