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Jeff Lederer with Mary LaRose: Schoenberg on the Beach

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Jeff Lederer with Mary LaRose: Schoenberg on the Beach
Saxophonist Jeff Lederer has used several unexpected inspirations for musical projects over the years, such as Shaker hymns and the writings of Herman Melville. Schoenberg on the Beach may be the most audacious thing he has ever done. It blends the compositions of Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern and the sounds of Coney Island together into an intriguing song cycle performed by a team of exceptional jazz musicians.

Schoenberg lived in Los Angeles in the latter part of his life and spent much time at the beach. Lederer connected this to his own long-time residency in Brooklyn where he has often visited Coney Island. This inspired him to adapt the early songs of Schoenberg and his pupil, Webern, into chamber music which is a lively combination of the ethereal and forceful. This group's instrumental front line of Lederer's clarinet and flute, Patricia Brennan's often distorted vibraphone, and Hank Roberts' cello often give off a vibe of restless uncertainty while the solid foundation of Michael Formanek's bass and Matt Wilson's drums keep things grounded. Vocalist Mary LaRose, however, provides the real crazy-quilt heart of this music. Her elastic voice coos, yelps and croons, giving an added layer of sensuality and humanity to the work. She quietly creeps over the woozy sliding of "Beneath The Shelter," chirps to the strutting beat of "Moonstruck," and dramatically recites the words of "I Gaze Upon" as Lederer and Brennan stroll around her.

The album has a lot of lively activity but there are also more serene passages such as the hypnotically charming "Blummengruss" where LaRose sings sweetly over undistorted vibes and airy flute, and the haunting clarinet melody on "Heiter." On the closing piece, "Summer's Weariness" the entire group goes into one last stomp, led by a clarinet freakout and heavy drumbeats, before receding into a droning ambiance overtaken by the sound of ocean waves. In addition to the group's efforts, field recordings of actual Coney Island sounds like roller coasters and carnival barkers appear between each track which really wraps the album in a cloud of dreamlike nostalgia.

This album is an unusual listen at first but it has an endearing charm and quirky beauty that reveals itself more with each hearing. It is one of the most fascinating pieces of music Jeff Lederer has put together to date and really shows off the amazing vocal talents of Mary LaRose.

Track Listing

On the Beach; Blummengruss; Beneath the Shelter; The Pale Flowers of Moonlight; Heiter; I Gaze Upon; Moondrunk; Summer Evening; Summer's Weariness.

Personnel

Jeff Lederer
woodwinds
Mary LaRose
vocals
Patricia Brennan
vibraphone
Michael Formanek
bass, acoustic
Additional Instrumentation

Jeff Lederer: clarinet, flute; Marty Ehrlich: bass clarinet (4); Arktureye: interstitial electronic pieces.

Album information

Title: Schoenberg on the Beach | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Little (i) Music


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