The Jamie Saft Quartet – Hidden Corners – [TrackList follows] – RareNoise RNR0109, 44:41 [6/28/19] ****:
(Jamie Saft – piano, co-producer, co-recording; Dave Liebman – tenor and soprano saxophone, flute; Bradley Christopher Jones – acoustic bass; Hamid Drake – drums)
Pianist Jamie Saft doesn’t hold back on the spiritual side for Hidden Corners, his 44-minute quartet release with saxophonist Dave Liebman (Miles Davis, Chick Corea and bands such as the Dave Liebman Group and Expansions), drummer Hamid Drake (credits include Don Cherry, Herbie Hancock, Pharoah Sanders, plus more) and bassist Bradley Christopher Jones (the Jazz Passengers, Marc Ribot, Ornette Coleman, others). The eight tracks which comprise Hidden Corners were inspired by concepts from Jewish mysticism as well as previous jazz artists who touched on a transcendent nature in their work. Saft explains, “I’ve been fascinated and inspired by the Spiritual Jazz path for years. Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler – all of these artists seek ecstatic states of consciousness in the music.” Saft additionally clarifies, “These transcendent experiences can be traced through art, music, spirituality, exercise and meditation. Jewish Mysticism considers these same paths.” The album’s liner notes further illuminate how Saft, his collaborators and Saft’s eight originals are all connected to veiled areas of consciousness and creativity. Hidden Corners has been issued in three formats: as a four-panel CD digipack; as a gatefold 12-inch (heavyweight, black) LP with download code; and as a digital album. This review refers to the CD.
Saft’s outpouring of spirituality can be heard on the five-minute opener, the rolling “Positive Way,” which begins with a transitory piano intro before Jones enters with his wonderful, melodic bass, Drake commences with perky percussive elements and Liebman comes in with his high, sharp tenor sax. In Jewish mysticism, numbers are important in textual terms but can also be related to numerical values in music. Case in point is the high-strung, free-flowing “Seven Are Double,” an unrestrained piece where Saft crashes across his acoustic piano’s keyboard and later manipulates the strings inside his piano (thus providing a harp-like attribute reminiscent of Alice Coltrane) while Drake supplies oscillating percussion and Jones maintains surging bass lines. During “Seven Are Double” Liebman furnishes more of his ferocious tenor work. The apex during the record’s first half is the eight-minute “Yesternight,” a lengthy and expressive tune with lots of improvisational room. Liebman switches to soprano sax (evoking John Coltrane to some extent), Drake contributes rhythms which seem to rise and climb, and Saft offers bluesy piano chords which sometimes recall Ahmad Jamal’s minimalist style. Liebman moves to flute on the shortest cut, the enigmatic “231 Gates,” which alludes to numerology. This subtle and ethereal composition is accentuated by Liebman’s waiflike and exploratory flute and Saft’s softly-inclined but unsettled piano chords.
The CD’s second half is equally good. One standout is the eight-minute title track, an agreeably grooving number where Liebman’s tenor has a sincere and incisive quality and Drake and Jones deliver an attractive rhythmic undertow. When Saft takes the solo spotlight he suggests early Hancock and other likeminded Blue Note keyboardists. Listening to Saft during “Hidden Corners” it’s a wonder he’s not better known in the overall jazz community. The Alice Coltrane association is again brought to the fore on the mutedly atmospheric “The Anteroom,” where Saft again crafts a harp-like tone using the piano’s strings (but mostly plays single notes or perfunctory piano chords) while Liebman again shifts to his high-soaring flute. Hidden Corners concludes on an elevated plateau with the swelling “Landrace,” which has an arrangement emphasized by a propulsive rhythm and Liebman and Saft’s fast-paced solo statements. Hidden Corners is a masterful jazz document by a first-rate jazz band which proves spirituality and instrumental expertise can go hand in hand, where creativity and complex perceptual characterizations can balance into a distinct musical declaration.
Pianist Jamie Saft focuses on the spiritual on his latest project.
Seven Are Double
Turn at Every Moment