Jamie Saft/ Steve Swallow/Bobby Previte

The New Standard
RareNoise Records RNR 032

This is a puzzling CD. But the mystery has little to do with the music at hand. Briefly, The New Standard is a straight up set of 10 originals, played with professional aplomb without a note or timbre out of place by three of improvised music’s most accomplished individuals. Representing three different generations, pianist/organist Jamie Saft, electric bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bobby Previte have played on hundreds of sessions with each expanding the definition of jazz a little bit further: Swallow in the 1960s and 1970s; Previte in the 1980s and 1990s; and Saft in this century.

But with all these sessions under their collective belts, why did the three decide to record a low-key set that could have come from any piano trio, anytime from 1964 on? Since Saft et. al have been innovators rather than neo-con followers, did they feel they had to prove their jazz bone fides? If so they’ve certainly done so on a high plateau here. Previte known for his appropriation of Rock rhythms in bands like Weather Clear, Track Fast, is so in-the-pocket here that a Bebop night club career could beckon – if Bebop and night clubs still existed. Saft’s groups such as Slobber Pup and Metallic Tate of Blood have drawn on everything from Metal to Pop to Reggae to Klezmer. Here on keyboard though he appears to be channeling the stolid bluesiness of a Wynton Kelly or Monty Alexander, although his organ playing seems to take more from Pop-R&B than Jimmy Smith. As for Swallow, his bass guitar movements are so sophisticated that he never neglects the time-keeping role even as he’s able to solo with a six-string guitarist’s finesse.

This is especially noticeable on a tune such as the title track as Swallow’s pliable single-string picking bring a needed cooling off to a performance that is otherwise weighed down by Previte’s ruffs and cymbal rebound and Saft’s near-orgasmic chording. Elsewhere, Swallow’s centred walking pushed into this century’s music “Step Lively”, a relentless foot-tapper that otherwise sounds as if it stepped lively out of the 1950s. By its finale, the drummer’s swerve towards Latin accents also adds up-to-date ballast to a piece rotating on the pianist’s excitable glissandi.

With the piano tracks consciously or not reflecting mainstream Bop to the extent that “Bag’s Groove” insinuations, along with shuffle beats and strutting keyboard bravado predominate, the numbers where Saft plays organ are more stimulating. While a swing-paced jittering is present on tunes like “Blue Shuffle” and “All Things to All People” the crescendos and subsequent pumping smears are almost extensions of the classical-R&B formulae that B-3 masters like Garth Hudson and the Markeys’ different keyboardists brought out. While this rejection of outright swinging jazziness distinguishes these tunes, they’re in variance with the Jazz “vibe”, to use a 1950s term, of the rest of the program.

In short The New Standard proves that Saft/Swallow and Previte can output contemporary Bop-tinged Jazz with the best of them. But the question of why is still unanswered.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Clarissa 2. Minor Soul 3. Step Lively 4. Clearing 5. Trek 6. The New Standard 7. I See No Leader 8. Blue Shuffle 9. All Things to All People 10. Surrender The Chaise.

Personnel: Jamie Saft (piano and organ); Steve Swallow (electric bass) and Bobby Previte (drums)