Jamie Saft, Steve Swallow, Bobby Previte with Iggy Pop – Loneliness Road [TrackList follows] – RareNoise RNR077, 61:33 [5/26/17] ****:
Modern jazz trio music with a surprise guest vocalist.
(Jamie Saft – piano; Steve Swallow – bass; Bobby Previte – drums; Iggy Pop – vocals (tracks 4, 9, 12))
Keyboardist Jamie Saft has returned for another outing with his trio, The New Standard, which includes drummer Bobby Previte and bassist Steve Swallow. The 61-minute, 12-track Loneliness Road is the threesome’s sophomore record and a follow-up to the group’s 2014 self-titled debut. Loneliness Road sustains the trio’s methodology of using Saft’s noteworthy contemporary jazz compositions and the band’s telepathic interplay. This time, The New Standard adds unexpected guest vocalist Iggy Pop, who is spotlighted on three tunes. Yes, the guy who led the notorious proto-punkers The Stooges puts his unique vocal stylings to jazz music. By the by, it does work. Loneliness Road was released as a CD digipack, double vinyl (2×180 grams) and multiple digital formats. This review refers to the CD configuration.
Although much has been written about Pop’s appearance on this record, the main focus is Saft’s originals and the communication between Swallow, Saft and Previte. The three have not had a long history together (the 2014 release was the first time they got together in the studio), but you wouldn’t know it by the way they perform on the generally low-key material. There is a straightforward and effective simplicity to opener “Ten Nights,” where a two-chord arrangement gradually changes direction into a forward-rolling swinger accentuated by Saft’s piano runs and Previte’s cymbal work. Saft explains, “Many of the pieces I wrote for this album show allegiance to the great American song forms of writers such as Bob Dylan, The Band, Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Jimi Hendrix, Charles Ives, Bill Evans, & Miles Davis.” Discovering those influences in specific tunes may take some effort, but suffice to say Saft, Swallow and Previte do mine territory similar to some of the songwriters and composers Saft mentions. The understated “Little Harbor,” for instance, has a graceful, unhurried pace and underlying elegance which evokes Evans and Ives, in spirit if not in actuality. There is a sharp and brisk luminosity which rushes through the swinging “Henbane,” which showcases Swallow’s rhythmic meticulousness. The rhythm section gels so well Saft is given plenty of freedom to sift around on the harmonics. The result on “Henbane” is lots of space and a seamless setting that emphasizes Saft’s keyboard skills. There seems to be a bit of The Band or Dylan’s folk inspiration on the bluesy and downcast “Pinkus,” a gently evolving piece where one can hear the home studio’s warm ambiance (the trio benefited from analog equipment at Saft’s Potterville International Sound Studio). “Pinkus” has an organic mood and a naturalistic tone which is tailored to the trio’s presence and objectives. “Pinkus” is a good example of how the trio as a whole is at the center, not any one soloist. The musicians are individually talented, but they fluently tie the music together as one unit. Another one-for-all highlight is the sensitively-tinted ballad “Nainsook,” apparently named after a soft, fine, lightweight form of muslin once used to make babies’ clothing or lingerie. Saft, Swallow and Previte maintain a mostly mellifluous approach, but drop in interesting discordant contrasts which provide balance.
The inclusion of Pop was no afterthought. The intention of including the rock singer was discussed very early by Saft and RareNoise co-founder/producer Giacomo Bruzzo. Saft states he chose three fully-realized instrumentals from the session which he figured Iggy might connect with, and parlayed producer Bill Laswell as an initial intermediary, someone both Saft and Pop had collaborated with on previous projects. Evidently, Pop liked what he heard and began penning lyrics which fit the already-completed music, and taped his vocals at a session in Miami. During the loose-limbed “Don’t Lose Yourself,” Pop sing/speaks with marked constraint, utilizing phrasing which makes his contribution swing, akin to what Jim Morrison did on some of the Doors’ jazzier cuts. On the title track, Pop tries on the persona of someone searching but not finding a relationship. Here, Pop escalates his emotionality while keeping his verbal imagery direct and concise. During the title track, there’s a smidgeon of country pop tenderness to both Pop’s delivery and his lyrical storytelling, which complements the trio’s melancholy arrangement. The CD concludes with Pop’s final song, the ruminative and traditionally-shaded “Everyday,” where Pop sings in the voice of another character who yearns for someone he doesn’t have, “I’m hungry for the soul that shines in your eyes/And all I want to say is/I love you/Every day/I love you.”
Don’t Lose Yourself