Jeff Lederer’s Shakers n’ Bakers

Heart Love
little (i) music CD107

Although the objective of most Jazz repertoire bands remains to pay respects to certain, usually deceased, musicians or musicians by interpreting the recorded work, very few do more than collect tunes for a tribute, play them in an expected fashion and move on. Luckily as the honorees have evolved past saluting big names, alternative sounds’ novel nuances are sometimes conveyed. Case in point is tenor saxophonist Jeff Lederer’s Shakers n’ Bakers. For the past decade or so the New York-based academic, best-known for his work in Matt Wilson’s groups, has been working his way through the oeuvre of Albert Ayler (1936 -1970), linking it to the sacred songs of the Shaker religious sect,

Heart Love goes one step further. Those two ecstatic music currents are applied to tracks from two of Ayler most controversial LPs. Most of the songs are from New Grass, the late saxophonist’s so-called rock-R&B disc which featured electric instruments, (overdubbed) horn arrangements and Ayler and Mary Maria Parks singing her naïve psychedelic era lyrics. The remaining tunes are from Goin’ Home an earlier Ayler LP dedicated to variations on spirituals and standards.

Several New Grass tunes are inventively freshened through Lederer’s arrangements that give them a palimpsest treatment. An overlay of Boogaloo or Reggae riffs judder on top of the bedrock gospel-soul-funk textures that still peer through. This is especially effective on tunes such as “A Man is Like a Tree” and especially “Oh Love of Life!” While a fluttering brass obbligato stabilizes the pseudo-profound lyrics on the former, the latter, driven by Jamie Saft’s Trenchtown organ tremolo and a broken backbeat from drummer Allison Miller, adds another variant of spirituality to the performances of masterly lead singers Mary LaRose and Miles Griffith, who come across like a combination of Marion Williams and James Cleveland with Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding. Like Ayler himself, the groove, which is further thickened by Chris Lightcap’s bass line and fractured brass breaks from combinations of Kirk Knuffke’s cornet, Steven Bernstein’s trumpets and Joe Fiedler’s trombone, don’t prevent Lederer from expelling split tones, glottal punctuation and agonized cries in distinct varieties. Saft’s snazzy Booker T-style organ vamps bring out multiphonics that leap from Stax-Volt to yakkity-sax references on “New Generation”; while the keyboardist’s deep Jazz chromatic piano chording on “Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe” bring out cascading Trane-like near-onomatopoeic vibrations that when coupled with harmonized riffs from brass and voices, suggest John Coltrane’s more moderate religious devotion and confirm his influence on Ayler.

Flowing vibrations scattered into whistles and honks and reconstructed into straightforward emotion on the concluding “Heart Love” that not only confirms the saxophonist’s versatile timbral reorganization and speaking-in-tongues in tandem with Griffith, but also relates back to and confirms the Rock/R&B-affiliations of the introductory tracks. More restrained, but as magisterial in execution the Goin’ Home-related tracks showcase Lederer’s more casual improvising. At same time though, each serves as a place-marking showcase for other players, whether it’s Lightcap’s bottom-feeding theme variations feature on “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”; Saft’s unexpected gentle pianism on “Goin’ Home”; a face-off with guest drummer Matt Wilson on “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” where percussion ruffs and them elaborations link the sacred and the swinging; Saft’s unexpectedly gentle pianism on “Goin’ Home”; or a couple of other tracks where Saft’s linking of electric harpsichord and organ move plus Lederer’s split tone and freak notes to push psychedelics into the tabernacle.

A rethink not a retread, the CD manages to salute a legendary saxophonist’s work, while burnishing the playing and arranging capabilities of a contemporary one.

-Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Message from Mother Ann 2. Everybody’s Movin’ 3. Oh Love Of Life! 4. Deep River 5. Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe 6. A Man is Like a Tree 7. Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen* 8. New Generation 9. Swing Low Sweet Chariot* 10. Goin’ Home 11. Heart Love

Personnel: Kirk Knuffke (cornet); Steven Bernstein (trumpet, slide trumpet(; Joe Fiedler (trombone); Jeff Lederer (tenor saxophone, flute); Lisa Parrott (baritone saxophone); Jamie Saft (piano, organ, Baldwin electric harpsichord); Chris Lightcap (bass); Allison Miller, Matt Wilson* (drums); Mary LaRose, Miles Griffith, Heart Singers: Amy Cervini, Melissa Stylliano. Toni Seawright, Chelsea McClauren (vocals)