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Spiritual jazz — a style of devotional modal-to-free jazz that is most often associated with John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders — has its own rules. And, on Hidden Corners, pianist Jamie Saft’s quartet doesn’t tamper with them. Instead, they burrow down and explore the music from within. They touch on the familiar tropes of the genre, but what matters is how the band puts their own personal stamp on the standard forms. And they do this very well, indeed.
Saxophonist and flutist Dave Liebman, who knows a thing or two about Coltrane’s music, is a constant source of surprise throughout. On “Positive Way,” he steers his lines into odd digressions and mysterious byways and he wrangles wailing high notes into unexpected shapes. The leader, too, finds ways to bring fresh expression to a sub-genre that peaked in the ’60s. On the album’s title track, Saft’s lightly dancing solo is tinged with blues and punctuated by block chords.
The dark rumble of Saft’s chords and the jumpy, agitated flow of his lines heighten the mood on “Seven Are Double,” the album’s freest and most troubled track. Bassist Bradley Christopher Jones’ rhythmic drive and melodic continuity provide the music’s heartbeat. His lively introduction to “Landrace” and the mournful human cry of his arco work on “Turn at Every Moment” linger in the memory. Drummer Hamid Drake is less of a thundering presence than usual, but he’s relaxed and swinging and maintains a casually supportive dialogue with the soloists. All in all, it’s time well spent in the House of the Lord.— Ed Hazell
Featured photo by Peter Gannushkin.