Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Shakers n' Bakers - Heart Love (February 14, 2018)

In 1968, after years of being one of the most charismatic and controversial characters in the free jazz movement of the 1960’s, the saxophonist Albert Ayler made a recording called “New Grass”, comprised of songs that he had created along with his musical and life partner Mary Maria Parks. These new songs spoke with the directness of the language of R n’ B and Soul music and were produced with a slick sound by Bob Thiele for the Impulse label. This music expresses Albert and Mary Maria’s beautiful vision of a world filled with happiness and universal love. While Albert’s own playing on the record shows the same fire and freedom he exhibited throughout his entire recording career, the album was a departure from the less structured sound of his previously recorded music. This music used the familiar forms of popular music forms to express an ecstatic millennial vision of Heaven on Earth. 

Upon it’s release, the album “New Grass” was subjected to great criticism, most pointedly by some of the people who had championed Albert in his early career and raised him up as a hero of the new jazz. In the magazine “Cricket”, Amiri Baraka and his editors accused Albert of being a “sell-out” who had appeased Impulse Records by making an album that was intended to broaden his appeal to a wider audience. Albert made one more album for Impulse, but within 3 years of the release of “New Grass” he was suddenly gone, the victim of a tragic drowning in the East River. 

The album’s utopian vision and millennial fervor resonate deeply and I have felt for a long time that my group Shakers n’ Bakers was the perfect ensemble to re-visit the rarely heard songs on this recording. In addition to these joyful and visionary songs you will hear some traditional Spiritual songs included here that Albert had previously recorded as well. I have made my case for the connections between the “Vision Songs” of the Shaker religious sect and the music of Albert Ayler in the previous two Shakers n’ Bakers recordings - here I focus only on the second part of that equation, although in the opening recitation you will hear a Shaker text that I uncovered in original manuscript form while doing research in 2013 as a NEH “Summer Scholar” at the NY State Archives in Albany. The opening words of this recording have not been uttered since the mid-19th Century and speak to the power of revelation of the divine through human expression that connects the Shakers and Albert. 

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 05:08

Shakers n’ Bakers: 

Mary LaRose / Miles Griffith – vocals 
Jeff Lederer – Tenor Saxophone, flute 
Jamie Saft – piano, organ, Baldwin electric harpsichord 
Chris Lightcap – bass 
Allison Miller – drums 


Steven Bernstein – trumpet, slide trumpet 
Kirk Knuffke – cornet 
Joe Fiedler – trombone 
Lisa Parrott – baritone saxophone 

Special guest on #7 and #9 

Matt Wilson – drums 

And the “Heart Love Singers”: 

Amy Cervini, Mary LaRose, Melissa Stylliano, Toni Seawright, Chelsea McClauren. 

All arrangements by Jeff Lederer ç ledrose music (bmi) 

Recorded May 1 and 2 at Systems Two, Brooklyn NY 
Engineered by Mike Marciano 
Mixed by Jamie Saft at Potterville International Sound. 
Mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side Sound. 

Shaker “Gift Hearts” created by the women of the Shakers community graciously provided by the Hancock Shaker Village. 
Designed by Guillermo Prado, Eight Point Two studio.