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12/20/13

Jeff Lederer's Swing N' Dix
Swing N' Dix
Little (i)

Depending on your distance from fifth-grade humor, the wordplay in the name of Jeff Lederer’s latest band is worthy of either a snicker or a cringe. But it also happens to be accurate: Swing n’ Dix is an irreverent but good-natured group that takes its cues from the gusto of swing and Dixieland music. Lederer is a potent reedman best known for his membership in drummer Matt Wilson’s quartet, and he recruits Wilson and cornet player Kirk Knuffke from that ensemble for this project. He scores a coup by rounding out the band with Bob Stewart, who at age 68 still huffs and puffs a tuba with distinctively resonant aplomb. Stewart’s jaunty presence on the tonal bottom line simultaneously adds fun and legitimacy to the proceedings.

Wilson has long been a genre-smudging master of madcap ingenuity—crisp, goofy and magnetic in all the right places. His splash-cymbal patter beside Stewart’s tuba splats, mixed with the tootling of Lederer (on clarinet) and Knuffke, capture the giddy charm of Fats Waller’s Prohibition-era ditty “Honeysuckle Rose.” The quartet covers Pee Wee Russell on a slow blues workout, invites Mary LaRose to sing the Shaker hymn “My Sweet Home in Zion” and nods to bop with Duke Pearson’s “ESP (Extrasensory Perception).” Their rendition of “La Rosita” (perhaps best known via Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster) has the loose, gangly ambiance of a Henry Threadgill number. The closing title track, a Lederer original, sounds like a soundtrack for a clown-car skit even before the group vocals kick in. Throughout the album, the attitude is one of lighthearted novelty. But the caliber and command of the ensemble interplay rarely fail to remind you of the depth of the band’s collective talent.

Originally published in November 2013
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