Jamie Saft, a man for all musical seasons….

Jamie Saft – Solo a Genova – Rare Noise Records (Germany) – 63:17  ****1/2:

(Jamie Saft – solo piano)

To call Jamie Saft an artist with wide musical tastes would be a major understatement. Saft plays piano, Hammond B-3 organ, Fender Rhodes, accordion, and steel guitar. His interests range from opera, folk, heavy metal, and jazz. He has collaborated with Iggy Pop, Roswell Rudd, and John Zorn, and has played on over 150 recordings.

His new CD, recently released on RareNoise Records, is his first solo piano album in 25 years. It was recorded in Genova, Italy on March 3, 2017. Using a 9 foot Steinway D-274 piano, Saft casts a wide net to interpret tracks ranging from Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell to ZZ Top and Stevie Wonder. If that is not enough, let’s include Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis, and Miles Davis with Bill Evans. Charles Ives is honored as well.

Although the repertoire may be varied, what is a constant is the reverence paid and the stunning presentation. For fans of “Americana” ranging from folk to classical with jazz influences, Saft should be “your guy.” The hall acoustics in Genova, are pristine and the audience is awed and respectful. Jamie both produced and mixed the tracks.

Immediately upon first listen, this is grand music to make you block out any distractions and soak in the sparkling, resonant ambiance. Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett (minus the vocalizations) come to mind as comparisons. Notes, chords, and phrases cascade like waterfalls. There is a lushness that brings on both contemplation and a deep sense of contentment.

Whether it be the Coltrane ballad, “Naima” or soulful tunes from Curtis Mayfield (“The Makings of You”), and Stevie Wonder (“Overjoyed”) you might consider going back to the original with new ears to listen to Saft’s inspirations. Bob Dylan’s “Po Boy” features stride piano with a few surprises, while another Dylan track, “Restless Farewell” done in a wistful manner, had me looking up the lyrics as Bob sang it to Frank Sinatra on his 80th birthday. Saft honors the sentiment brought out in the lyric, “…and the corner sign says it’s closing time, so I’ll bid farewell and be down the road.”

Jamie Saft has “big ears” and he translates his wide love for cross genres into a special solo piano CD. There is something here for anyone who is open to broadening their musical palette.

The Makings of You (Curtis Mayfield)
Human/Gates (Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis/Jamie Saft)
Naima (John Coltrane)
Sharp Dressed Man (ZZ Top)
Overjoyed (Stevie Wonder)
Po’ Boy (Bob Dylan)
The New Standard/Pinkus (Jamie Saft)
Blue Motel Room (Joni Mitchell)
The Housatonic at Stockbridge (Charles Ives)
Blue in Green (Miles Davis and Bill Evans)
Restless Farewell (Bob Dylan)

—Jeff Krow