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Though essentially a jazz musician, Jamie Saft doesn’t fit precisely under one genre banner. Dedicated to improvisation, the keyboardist’s omnivorous tastes and punk rock attitude keep at least one foot outside the tradition at all times. That aesthetic remains true on You Don’t Know the Life, Saft’s third LP for RareNoise to feature bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bobby Previte. Concentrating on the organ, Saft finds the midpoint between cocktail lounge ambience and soul jazz groove and dances all over it. The first four tracks alone encompass avant-garde fusion (Bill Evans’ “Re: Person I Knew,” on which Saft switches over to electric harpsichord), the brooding “Dark Squares,” the soulful “Water From Breath,” and the mutated acid blues of the Moving Sidewalks’ title track. From there the trio is similarly all over the place, covering Saft/Swallow mentor Roswell Rudd’s “Ode to a Green Frisbee” as parlor music, exploring free improv with “The Break of the Flat Land” and turning gospel into a sort of ambient wave with “The Cloak.” The record closes with displays of humor: a straightfaced take on the standard “Moonlight in Vermont” that sounds like it’s filtering from one of those organ shops at your local mall, and a stately run through Burt Bacharach’s “Alfie.” Saft and company may shift easily from snarky aggression to deep soul, but they know to send us home with a smile.
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