Jamie Saft, Steve Swallow and Bobby Previte

You Don't Know the Life
Rare Noise RNR 0101

Taking a musical left turn or at least trading his usual rustic surroundings of upstate Kingston. N.Y. for downtown Manhattan, multi-keyboardist Jamie Saft also trades his expected Jazz, Rock and Klezmer echoes for a session that emulates the funky organ trio grooves of the 1960s and 1970s. On this 10-track burrowing into urban culture, Saft, who has played with folks as disparate as John Zorn and Donovan, enlist the talents of two Jazz masters, electric bassist Steve Swallow, known for his long-time affiliation with Carla Bley, and drummer Bobby Previte, who has backed many New York downtowners.

Fun and swinging, especially when a perfect storm of textures integrate Saft’s dual keyboard glissandi, Swallow’s balanced pulses and Previte’s shuffle and sock cymbal output, the three do best when they stick to originals or unexpected fare. Honestly while the trio members’ versions of “Moonlight in Vermont” or “Alfie” could have got them a weekly gig at a 125th Street club in 1964, genre-masters like Johnny “Hammond” Smith, Charles Earland and Richard “Groove” Homes long ago staked out that territory against sonic incursions.

More notable are “Re: Person I Know”, where Saft’s electric harpsichord meshes with Swallow’s sluicing bass line and tambourine-on-hi-hat smacks from Previte to create the only Bill Evans composition you can dance to. The title track is transformed with similar alchemy, turning the ZZ Top-associated melody into a doleful Blues. Juddering with story-telling possibilities, “You Don't Know the Life” wallows in poignancy, stretched out through expanded organ stops and double time drum coordination. More uniquely Previte’s tom tom work on “Ode to a Green Frisbee” adds Native Indian inferences to a swinging organ flight; while “The Break of the Flat Land”, a group improv, could be a folk-country ballad played on electric instruments.

More to the point tracks such as “Dark Squares” and “The Cloak” swing with enough backbeat drums and swelling squirms and pulsations from the organ – even in the instrument’s very lowest register without squirming on the first tune – to satisfy the experiment.

Together the trio members have created a rhythmic swing fest that pays proper homage to funk organ trios, but with enough contemporary twists and turns to keep things interesting.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Re: Person I Know 2. Dark Squares 3. Water from Breath 4. You Don't Know the Life 5. Ode to a Green Frisbee 6. The Cloak 7. Stable Manifold 8. The Break of the Flat Land 9. Moonlight in Vermont 10. Alfie

Personnel: Jamie Saft (organs and electric harpsichord); Steve Swallow (electric bass) and Bobby Previte (drums)