The Jamie Saft Quartet's Blue Dream Steps Back in Time Moving Forward

I've referenced this record in a few Stereophile equipment reviews but somehow neglected to give it the deserved full review. The adventurous pianist Jamie Saft steps back in time here to produce an album that on "Vessels", the opening original tune, should immediately remind you of the classic '60s Coltrane quartet, though I'm not suggesting the players are in any way trying to copy Coltrane, Tyner, Garrison and Jones.

Built upon a repeating slow moving, bluesy riff that never develops a melody "Vessels" deliberately unfurls its sails and floats on an undulating sea produced by the rhythm section of Saft, (especially) bassist Bradley Christopher Jones and drummer Nasheet Waits, over which tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry tacks through thick, turbulent waters. If the piece doesn't have you re-experiencing the deep, brooding jazz of the '60s, you probably weren't there.

The album includes 9 Saft originals and 3 covers. Following the opener and a long deliberate pause between tracks, "Equanimity" begins with a long drum solo into which McHenry finally enters with a long undulating curl followed by an a-melodic group drift until Saft breaks into a bridge-like break. Though its a bridge from nowhere, it goes somewhere to what sounds like a melodic riff that just as quickly evaporates. An odd but engaging track. The side ends with the throbbing "Sword's Water" that's all percussion fronted McHenry howls. Both original yet somehow "classic" and familiar.

The covers, "Violets For Your Furs", "Sweet Lorraine" and "There's a Lull In My Life" are a spread one to a side across the three remaining, not that you'll need them as anchors to get you through the other originals. It will all make sense first play. A classic acoustic jazz quartet updated.

Unlike Saft's The New Standard reviewed here a few years ago, which was an all-analog production, this one was recorded digitally. If you need proof that today what counts most is who engineered and produced using what mics in what studio than how the mic feed and mix were stored, please listen to this dark, deep and mysterious record produced by the same team as the AAA record. The vinyl sounds spectacular and I don't even know who cut it.

One thing I can be sure of about this record: it's taken so long for me to get a review posted that I can assure you it has staying power. I've listened to it dozens of times while other unplayed records waiting in "the piles". Highly recommended.

SpinMark3313's picture quite good as well for those who want to check out this quartet w/o taking the 2 lp plunge. Michael speaks the truth!

billsf's picture

I'm listening to this as I write. I've liked it since I first bought it. Jamie Saft is another in an extremely long list of modern pianists who have found there way in our post-tonal music world. I'm old enough to remember when those who wrote about Jazz were bemoaning the loss of the piano in modern Ornette influenced music. Hundreds of creative musicians such as Jamie Saft, have proved them wrong.

billsf's picture

Their way!

Impact's picture

I bought this album a little over a month ago and have listened to it many times. It's an easy album to like.

SpinMark3313's picture

sings the praise of the latest Jamie Saft Quartet LP. "Hidden Corners," on my list.

jazz's picture

sounds worse than the hires digital version, treble with less cleanness and also the rest not better.

The „you don’t know the life” and “loneliness” album of Saft sound clearly better on vinyl.