Jamie Saft, Steve Swallow, Bobby Previte & Iggy Pop – Loneliness Road

Jamie Saft – piano
Steve Swallow – bass
Bobby Previte – drums
Iggy Pop –vocals

Ten Nights
Little Harbor
Bookmaking
Don’t Lose Yourself
Henbane
Pinkus
The Barrier
Nainsook
Loneliness Road
Unclouded Moon
Gates
Everyday
(61:34)

RareNoise RNR077

Jamie Saft, Steve Swallow and Bobby Previte first joined together in 2012, producing “The New Standard” (also on RareNoise), an album of first takes with ‘classic’ songwriting and jazz trio roots. On “Loneliness Road” they return for another disc’s worth plus a little extra: vocals by Iggy Pop on three of the tracks.

Now, however well-established and respected RareNoise is – and it is – this is undoubtedly going to result in a new level of media attention, all under the banner of ‘Iggy Sings Jazz’ but… beyond the surface novelty, does it work?

Yes. Oh yes.

For a start, the combination of vocal and instrumental tracks is well-balanced. If Iggy had featured on all of them, it would likely have been too much, losing the precious rarity value of the half-sung words (that said, I could have enjoyed one or two extra songs… who was it said, always leave ‘em wanting more?) As it is, attention alternates between his naked and well-worn voice and Saft, Swallow & Previte’s effortless invocations of time past through a present lens.

On the three vocal tracks – Everyday, Don’t Lose Yourself, and Loneliness Road – Iggy Pop’s voice is heard probably more up close and personal than ever before. You can hear the breath vibrating in his throat in these simple, evocative songs of love, loss and strength with lyrics that are sentimental but not sugary; a sparse, stripped-back charm.

Yet lest the vocalist pull all the focus… the music (either with words or without) is exquisite, unhampered by cliché, timeless with a myriad of fresh and uncluttered detail. There’s no sentimental nostalgia or re-hashed forms here, just new compositions that draw on a deep well. Take Henbane as an exemplar. From a mellow start, Saft’s piano tickles you into the tune, spells out the melody, and then soars with dramatic sweep. Listen beyond the keys and Swallow and Previte lay down a marvellous locked-but-loose rhythm, with a short, bubbling solo from Swallow. Henbane is not unusual. 

And don’t forget, like the first disc, “Loneliness Road” is all first takes, from all four musicians.

New Standard is no misnomer – instantly ‘familiar’ piano trio jazz tunes with a rolling fluidity; each threatening to embed themselves in the wrong drawer of your memory; the illusion of long existence.

Late night introspective fare, with more than a few surprises, pour yourself a glass of good red or a smoky malt and let it carry you away.

 

(“Loneliness Road” will be released on 26th May 2017)