AMN Reviews: New Zion Trio – Chaliwa (Veal Records)

nzt_chaliwa_coverIt´s got to cool down sometime, right? If it doesn´t rain, the sun inevitably goes down. So after the sunshiny reggae splash, the moonlit dub plotz.

The New Zion Trio, a tight, loose acoustic combo founded just a few years ago by keyboardist extraordinaire Jamie Saft, weds an unhurried, exacting jazz with soft Jamaican skank and just-suggested Jewish melodies. Following Fight Against Babylon, Chaliwa is the group´s second long-player, with Saft on piano and Fender Rhodes, Brad Jones replacing Larry Grenadier on upright bass and Craig Santiago on drums.

Chaliwa – another name for “chalice” – treats us to more than an hour´s worth of intimate, laidback interplay. Saft can shake stardust off the stars (“Negus”) and keep the bubble organ on slow boil (“Rasta Lion Dub”), or tinkle out a tune Nelson Riddle would just itch to arrange (“Pinkus”) and bring down serious from “Zion Heights” like the stride of a new prophet. Santiago and Jones Sly-and-Robbie with him the whole way through. Closed-eyed, each member stares deep into the soulfulness of the other and goes as slow and low as they can go. Special guest H.R. of Bad Brains chants it down in a mellow burn as Saft fuzzies up his Fender Rhodes.

Saft recently incorporated another new trio along with electric bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bobby Previte. The New Standard´s self-titled debut on Rare Noise is a wholly unspectacular, spectacular session. Slips on nicely after spinning Chaliwa.

Stephen Fruitman