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Bobby Previte, Jamie Saft & Nels Cline - Music from the Early 21st Century (RareNoise)

3 March 2020

For music nerds that follow such things, Music from the Early 21st Century presents a dream team of post-fusion improvisers. Drummer Bobby Previte has a long series of bands and records going back over thirty-five years; guitarist Nels Cline, though best known for his work in Wilco, has a CV going back even longer. Keyboardist Jamie Saft, the relative youngster here, has carved out a very distinctive career for himself over the course of the past quarter century, with some of his earliest work being in Previte’s outfits. This record captures a series of spontaneous compositions at clubs in New York and Pennsylvania, mixing bluesy psych rock and atmospheric post bop in a vein not far from what Previte did twenty-five years ago with his group Latin For Travelers (in which Saft participated).

With Saft’s grungy Hammond organ as an anchor, the trio grab improvised melodies by the throat and wrangle them into all kinds of interesting shapes. Previte plays around the beat as much as on it, giving the tracks a lighter-than-air quality, while Saft drills deep into the earth with his Hammond and MiniMoog, and Cline veers from wafting swells to power-drill shred. There’s a sense of whimsy here that drives the playing as much as intensity – the trio wants to have fun while they rip heads off. That gives the innocuously titled “Paywall” an aggressive edge, while giving the boldly-named “The New Weird” an unexpected melodic accessibility. The group hits its peak with “Occession,” whose fourteen-odd minutes give them plenty of room to explore every facet of their chemistry and charisma. Music from the Early 21st Century is a testament to giving a gaggle of creative individuals a stage and free reign to let what happens happen.