By Bradley Bambarger | Published September 2017
Jamie Saft—a keyboardist based in Upstate New York who blends jazz chops with a creative feel for rock, reggae and Jewish folk tunes—has reconvened his cross-generational trio with bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bobby Previte for a follow-up to their addictive 2014 album, The New Standard. Their new album, Loneliness Road, presents more of Saft’s melody-rich compositions, with the trio grooving on the tunes with a level of simpatico that belies an emphasis on first-take spontaneity.
The album’s guest vocalist on three tracks is art-punk icon Iggy Pop, in darkly crooning, existentialist mode. The singer, deep into the vibe, is no stranger to jazz audiences, having already worked with Medeski, Martin & Wood. Tracing Saft’s instrumental for the title track, Pop came up with a languid vocal melody and beseeching lyrics, the effect like a post-punk cabaret for the small hours. The singer growls “Everyday” intimately, as if he were reciting a love poem across a pillow after a long night. “Don’t Lose Yourself” finds Pop in a cautionary mood; the words aren’t his most polished, but they are authentic. The man knows of what he speaks.
The instrumentals, though, are the true draw of Loneliness Road. Opener “Ten Nights” sets the atmospheric tone beautifully, as Saft evokes Alice Coltrane over Previte’s oceanic undertow. “Bookmaking” feels like a soundtrack for trouble brewing after hours, while “Pinkus” is a deep-soul ballad with a Swallow solo that only deepens the emotion.
Loneliness Road: Ten Nights; Little Harbor; Bookmaking; Don’t Lose Yourself; Henbane; Pinkus; The Barrier; Nainsook; Loneliness Road; Unclouded Moon; Gates; Everyday. (61:38).
Personnel: Jamie Saft, piano; Steve Swallow, bass; Bobby Previte, drums; Iggy Pop, vocals (4, 9, 12).