Jeff Lederer and Shakers n’ Bakers, “Heart Love” from Heart Love (2018): Sneak Peek

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On Valentine’s Day 2018 the Jeff Lederer-led collective Shakers n’ Bakers releases their third long player, an Albert Ayler tribute called Heart Love. It takes a rare dive into the music that this lion of free jazz recorded in the late 60s, not long before his drowning death in late 1970.

A video for titular tune “Heart Love” debuts above, featuring Jeff Lederer undertaking the Ayler role on tenor sax, Allison Miller on drums, Chris Lightcap on bass and Jamie Saft handling piano (plus an extended, all-star horn section consisting of Steven Bernstein, Kirk Knuffke, Joe Fiedler and Lisa Parrott). Lyrics were written by Ayler’s girlfriend and muscial partner Mary Maria Parks; they’re sung here by Mary LaRose and Miles Griffith.

The period of Ayler that the Shakers n’ Bakers examines here produced the most controversial music of his career for the exact opposite reason that music usually is considered controversial: it’s very accessible. To put some perspective on it in contemporary terms, this would be like John Zorn making a dance-pop record. Despite the RnB melodies, euphorically spiritual lyrics and Impulse! label producer Bob Thiele’s crossover sheen, the wailing, unhinged Ayler still bled through at times, managing to alienate his free jazz fans and gain few new ones at the same time. But like most things, the passage of time eventually demanded a new perspective.

That new perspective comes from Heart Love; culling songs from 1969’s New Grass, its follow-up Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe and some traditional spirituals Ayler had recorded before his breakthrough Spiritual Unity album. “Heart Love” and the rest of Jeff Lederer and Shakers n’ Bakers’ latest project is a reminder that Ayler’s roots were in RnB (he was once in blues harp legend Little Walter’s band) and that a gospel thread runs through everything he did, even including those wild-assed records he made for ESP-Disk.

Heart Love completes the very complex picture of a very complex man.

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