Music » Livewire


Saturday, April 7, at the Happy Dog Saloon.


It's common practice for the avant-garde musicians who play in New York's downtown scene to perform in various groups simultaneously. This is the case with the members of Iffy, a trio that includes tenor saxophonist Chris Speed, organist Jamie Saft, and drummer Ben Perowsky. All of Iffy's members are important figures in the downtown scene. Speed, who doubles on clarinet, has been a major contributor to cutting-edge groups since he played with the outstanding Orange Then Blue big band in the mid-'90s. He's a thoughtful soloist whose influences include Lester Young and Albert Ayler. Saft, who, like Speed, attended the New England Conservatory of Music and played with Orange Then Blue, ranks among the best and most versatile of today's keyboard artists; he's adept on both acoustic and electronic instruments. Although it's not so obvious with Iffy, Saft has picked up ideas not only from jazz, but also classical, rock, and reggae forms. Perowsky also fits into a variety of contexts. Iffy has released one self-titled CD on the Knitting Factory label, and while some of its tracks are fairly simple, the playing on them becomes increasingly daring as they evolve. The trio's work on songs like "Coo Coo" has a post-boppish quality, except that Saft's rumbling work on it adds another dimension. Saft turns in the most violent work on the disc, but his playing on the lovely "Slippers" has a classical quality. He and Speed also create some unique textures during "Skipping Really High," a track whose title summarizes the group's ambition.

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