On the surface, Strange Bedfellows seems like an appropriate name for this trio. Keyboardist Jamie Saft and drummer Bobby Previte, both fiercely eclectic yet technically gifted player-composers, have collaborated before, in settings as far out as the improvised-extreme-metal group Beta Popes. (Saft played guitar there.) Veteran bassist Steve Swallow might seem like an odd piece to this puzzle, but Saft proves himself extremely capable in more conventional jazz settings on The New Standard. He plays piano on the album’s first three tracks, all originals that provide variations on blues patterns, dipping back into the styles of Wynton Kelly, Bobby Timmons and even Horace Silver (“Come on Home” seems ready to pop up in his melodies). Things are loose, with themes taking a backseat to group interaction, and the feeling is contagious. Even when the tune is limited to three chords, Swallow keeps it fresh with some heavy walking. If Previte isn’t dropping bombs, he turns the beat into a boogaloo shuffle or a soul groove.
Three of the 10 tracks feature Saft on organ. His approach to the instrument descends more from the Band than Blue Note, however; in other words, more chords and less single-note lines. Again his cohorts respond in kind, swinging hard under his gospel voicings or fat riffs. The group also slows down and gives Swallow some spotlight time on the out-of-tempo title track, his performance a marvel of tone and melody. Along with the pensive closing statement, “Surrender the Chaise,” which features another guitar-like solo from Swallow, this loose-limbed session offers plenty of variety throughout.