Iggy Pop on Singing Jazz, Turning 70

Iggy Pop sings three tracks on Loneliness Road, the new record by Jamie Saft’s jazz trio, including the bassist Steve Swallow and the drummer Bobby Previte, major figures in American improvised music. This is not a simulacrum of jazz, a high-voltage jam band, a PBS tie-in, or a promise owed to a manager. It is a rock personage deciding to invest time and energy into a record of improvised, first-take jazz by a band he had nothing to do with: Iggy wrote his own lyrics for Saft’s original compositions, and recorded his vocal tracks at a studio near his home in Miami. This sort of thing does not happen very often, especially in the United States, where it can seem as if – in Iggy’s words – “by subscribing to a particular kind of music you have joined a political party.”

They are melancholy, melodious songs, vulnerably delivered, honest within the scope of the persona he embodies. “I’m sorry for the loss of time,” he sings in “Every Day”:

“I’m hungry for the soul that shines in your eyes/And all I want to say is/I love you/Every day/I love you.”

“Iggy is such a great master of his instrument, and of constructing songs,” says Saft, a pianist and keyboardist who has played jazz and experimental music around New York since the late Nineties, sometimes in the orbit of John Zorn, Merzbow and Wadada Leo Smith. “He really just got right inside the forms of each one of those songs. They’re each really different – he put down something so fundamental.” 

Iggy Pop turns 70 today. A few days before that milestone, he spoke to Rolling Stone on the phone about collaboration, jazz, aging and singing in other languages.

This record came out of nowhere.
[Laughs] For you, you mean? I like “out of nowhere.” That sounds good to me!

Usually you can ascertain the circle around a musician and figure out how a certain collaboration came to be. Very little is truly unpredictable. But I don’t know how you ended up on Jamie Saft’s record.
I’ll tell you the reasons it happened. For one thing, I’ve been around for a long time and spread my net very wide, and at this point I just happen to know a lot of different types of musical people. [Bassist and producer] Bill Laswell and I were working on something else, with me and Bootsy [Collins], that Bill’s producing. Bill told me, “Look, there’s some guys in New York …,” and I don’t remember how he described them, but I definitely got the idea that it wasn’t a balls-out, tight-pants, electrified outfit. He said, “They really want to do something with you, and could I send them along?” I said, “Yeah.” I think he mentioned that there was a fella behind it named Giacomo [Bruzzo, co-founder of RareNoise Records] – I don’t know if he used the word “jazz” or not, but a good record label, he said. So they sent me three tracks, and they were already played, and that was that.

The other reason it happened is that since I was a little kid I’ve always been very fond of quieter, maybe more…

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