Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Lavelle Box Set.

I've been meaning to describe my explorations of my illustrious colleague, Mr. Lavelle, for months but am a sloth and easily distracted. This will not do. Besides, how often do I get a chance to write about someone's music with avid participation from them as musicians aren't always this enthused?

Of the five discs I have, two are simple drum-less gatherings, a set of duets with Daniel Carter and a Clarinet Trio with Sabir Mateen and Stanley Jason Zappa. The other three are more 'conventional' groupings with drum and bass involved. All are examples of work from someone who has put his all into compelling participation in an increasingly marginalized idiom. I wonder how he does it.

He has had an interesting trajectory of involvement with trumpet wrestling going back to his ninth year. He even made an attempt at attending Berklee that didn't pan out to his satisfaction and he cut his losses. It was our gain as it gave him space to discover his sound and ways to shape it the old fashioned way, living it.

Along the way, he added Bass Clarinet to his quiver and it's overlooked cousin, Alto Clarinet. For enhanced presence of the trumpet family, he added Flugelhorn and Pocket Trumpet. I had a chance to see him work his way through this array at the gallery here with vivacious participation from John Voigt and Syd Smart. He has this way of keeping his ears to the flow and making his selections on the fly, in the moment, shifting from one instrument to another with an easy deftness that masks the highly focused thought beneath the surface. 

Matt Lavelle TrioSpiritual Power.
Cat. No.: SHCD156
Matt Lavelle  trumpet, flugelhorn, bass-clarinet.
Hilliard Greene  bassMike T.A. Thompson  drums

1. Spiritual Power. Flugelhorn.
2. Stars Like Fleas. Bass Clarinet.
3. Si Se Puede. Trumpet.
4. End Times.Bass Clarinet.
5. I Have Love In My Life. Flugelhorn.
6. Hey Liduva. Bass Clarinet.
7. Seth Speaks. Flugelhorn.

"Spiritual Power is my best work,.and happened because I met Lars Gustavson,the label owner,..at the Matt Shipp solo show at Tower records.He said to send him something,a rare opportunity.I pulled out all the stops,.I lost a LOT of money,.but got what I wanted,.letting the international Jazz community know that I exist,.and that I'm a force to be reckoned with.(Silkheart is an international distributor of major players like Charles Gayle).

Music wise,.I also needed to prove that I could roll with the big dogs,and Hilliard Greene and Mike Thompson are very strong individuals that would push me to my best work,..I wrote every tune,.some very important me.Track 6 is for the only woman I really loved and lost,.and track 7 was my FIRST tune.track 2 was a line I came up with with a pop project I'm involved in called 
Stars Like Fleas,.but I sped it way up and made it jazz.This record is filled with personal highlights,.but I ask you to find yours and tell me what you find.

Spiritual Power is what the record was, catharsis of testimony of my very existence.

It worked,.a magical coming together that puts records above the fray.I got great reviews worldwide,top ten list in the NYC 
Village Voice and I'm proud of the work what will be a definitive part of my work after I'm gone." 

“Avant like it ought to be: sharp, shocking, bursting with creative ideas. Bassist Hilliard Greene and drummer Michael T.A. Thompson are worth tracking on their own, but Lavelle has a unique twist: playing three songs each on flugelhorn and bass clarinet, an unprecedented mix. His bass clarinet is utterly distinctive, its normal airiness choked down to short trumpet-like bursts. His native trumpet returns on one track, amid shouts of "Sí Se Puede." Right— they can.”
Tom Hull at the Village Voice

“Lavelle travels the line between life and death, again invoking powers greater than our own. His playing is absolutely fearless, and his ability to express himself unparalleled, with his rhythm section right beside him for the entire journey.”Florence Wetzel.

Spiritual Power opens with flugel fire and the dense adroitness of Mr. Green and Mr. Thompson fanning it. Mr. Lavelle is a singing player. And it is interesting that his ensemble colleagues both work extensively with singers. Mr. Greene is music director for Jimmy Scott and Mr. Thompson is found on one of my favorite singer releases of the past year or so with Fay Victor.

Matt's Bass Clarinet work is utterly voice borne. He makes the thing laugh and cackle in addition to a bounty of soaring singing ringing away. The compositions are also built of song and are generally compact and polished to a glisten. 
Tubman Atnimara.
Duet: Daniel Carter

Daniel Carter—tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, clarinet, piano, flute.
Matt Lavelle—piano, pocket trumpet, bass clarinet, flugelhorn, trumpet.
1. Mouth In The South. DC Tenor Saxophone, ML, piano.
2. Old Souls. DC. Alto Saxophone. ML. Pocket Trumpet.
3. Moon Under Water. DC. Clarinet. ML. Bass Clarinet.
4. Texas of the North. DC. Piano ML. Flugelhorn.
5. The D. C. Key. DC. Flute. ML. Bass Clarinet.
6. Church In Chinatown. DC. Tenor Saxophone. ML. Trumpet.
7. Elbowitis. DC. Clarinet, ML. Piano.
8. All Aboard. DC Alto Saxophone. ML. Trumpet.
"This was a "best of" compilation of 2 records,.."Matt Lavelle and Daniel Carter" 2002,..and "Matt Lavelle and Daniel Carter live at Tower",.2005 again,.Tower records is present,.as the label owner was actually on my staff,..Lord Tubman Antnimara,..(tracks 5,6,7,8)

Daniel Carter is one of my best friends,.and a future blog,..we're tight,..with no generational or culture shit,.we love one another.In the liners,and even on the disc I call it,."a musical conversation between 2 friends who love making music"
Something special and unexpected happens on tracks 3,4,and especially 6 where I play piano.Check track 6 out and tell me what you see". 

This is the first of two drum-less sessions and I'm reminded of how the absence of a rhythm section element lends a stillness to the sound and a quality akin to a Nonesuch Explorer field recording of sounds from the high Himalayas or Burundi or any such locale where sounds rise untrammeled by the ignominy of affiliation with a corporate music industry culture.

In fact, it highlights an odd philosophical question in the realm of sonic taxonomy. Just what exactly is this mystery stepchild stuck with a free jazz albatross around its neck? If one were to look at the unfolding of music as a human activity going back to whenever, it generally either has a secular or a ceremonial purpose. 

Among the former we'd find chain gang work songs, the ancient Nile tune to accompany the drawing of water for the fields or cigar tampers in the Dominican Republic singing Pindo Mama Pindo and off through to our time of pop songs.

Among the latter we might find Quechua songs to exhort the growth of seedlings in spring, Gamelans to mollify the volcano, passage rites of many kinds to be attended by music resulting in court music wherever a feudal outlook roosted and off to what is now called classical with the rise of nation states and greater abstractions to pile on with pomp and its circumstances.

And this duet somehow finds ways to have a foot in each side of possibility as they move from busking in subways to performing in spaces that have some commonality with a church.

Eye Contact: War Rug.
KMB 006
Trio. ML, 
1. Slave Graves.
2. Back In New York.
3. Like I treat Your Friends.
4. Make Me Have A Baby.
5. The Forest Lord.
6. Rhinecliff Hotel.
7. An Actor On TV.
8. War Rug.
9. The Chill And Then The Stupor.
10. Blackwood. Ahhh,..the studio album of Eye Contact...This was the third and last record by a VERY special project.The first 2 records,."Eye contact with God",.and "Embracing the tide",.were pure,oh so real,.free jazz,.live dates.Some of my prized possessions.This was before Ornette,and I was totally different.I was all spirit then.
The third record was an attempt to structure and also fuck with the band,.and its good,.but its NOT the free live stuff.Ryan Sawyer is a great friend,."the greatest living drummer in indie rock",.and Matt Heyner was even on Saturday night live with the guy from Sonic Youth.these guys were a zillion styles,..and they pushed me out of the box. the label owner saw me with William Parkers big band at the Vision Festival and offered me the date.  

This project sounds like a skronk foray and Mr. Lavelle becomes the voice element in the texture swirl. At some point, I could here a near perfect evocation of the sounds of Nighthawks buzzing on mid summer mid city roofs. I haven't heard that much lately and wonder if they are another bird species decimated by West Nile.  

The Manifestation Drama.
KMB  0018
Matt Lavelle. Bass Clarinet, tpt, fluglhrn, pocket trumpet.
Francois Grillot, Bss, 
Andre Martinez Percussion, 
Chris Forbes Piano.
1. God, Love, Sex.
2. Synesthesia.
3.The Eternity Tree.
4. The Manifestation Drama.
5. The Living Desire.
6. OC, DC, BC.
7. Weather Shamanism.

Morcilla is a long term project that still exists. at first,.it was an attempt to merge Latin and free jazz,.playing free.after ORNETTE,.I wanted to document the project,but had to add my idea,..use a great piano player,.and continue my tunes as a core focus.Andre Martinez,.(with Cecil Taylor over 10 years),.plays only congas,.an attempt to give us a different sound,.he's the latin,.and a free cat,.(and painter!).Chris Forbes on piano is a good friend who gets NO play,.so I wanted to give him some,.and Francois is my first true musical brother since 1991.

Francois and I met at,..yes,..Tower records,..and ran a straight ahead jam session for a year.Hes been with me though it all.

I work hard on the structure of a record,.the songs are chapters in a story..and Morcilla,the Manifestation Drama is meticulously planned.God Love Sex is a riff to set up the environment like we were playing free,.what we were from 2002-2005.Synesthesia was all about my gift to show the colors I see associated with pitch,.AND to show I can play changes,.challenging the notion that free guys cant hack it.
The Manifestation drama comes right from Polish classical composer Henryk Gorecki,.my favorite composer.its all about birth,love,and death,..mostly the pain I have suffered in being alone to learn,and to chase an impossible music dream.(?)
It also states I'm creating my way to freedom,.by any means necessary.

I like the use of hand drums over a conventional kit as it connects to planetary musics. As best as I can tell, this is also the first recording in this array where Matt switches instruments in mid composition. The quartet sound is full with everyone's complete engagement. Mr. Lavelle is also leaving a record of how his composition approach is evolving.

Clarinets at WKCR.
Matt Lavelle, Bass Clarinet.
Sabir Mateen, Alto Clarinet, B Flat Soprano Clarinet.
Stanley Zappa. Alto Clarinet, B Flat Soprano Clarinet.

"Hmm,.well,..this was really something. Zaps and I tried for a HUGE group of clarinets,.and it ended up just the 3 of us recording at WKCR,.the Columbia University Jazz station,.what a trip!


Sabir is not only one of my best friends as well,.but a mentor .Sabir represents a huge part of my musical life.I have been a sideman in his quintet and quartet for almost 10 years,..a true sideman,.learning over 100 tunes,.and following instructions.

Sabir is WAY deeper than what he gets credit for,.he"s an orchestra!!! and in free jazz,.he is an absolute KING on Tenor and his clarinets and flutes.His philosophy about hard work,and the true traditions,..sound traditions,.of every instrument you play is a huge influence.

Yet ANOTHER blessing in my musical life,.another master who has taken the time to help me reach potential way beyond what anybody would believe.

I was too green on alto clarinet,.and Sabir might be the greatest alto clarinet player on Earth,.so I found an opportunity to be the bass clarinet player,.up and down.Again,.I'm always out to prove that my double is not bullshit or easily dismissed,.I can REALLY play both,.so I love chances to try and show this.That was a story telling music session,..science fiction! "

Mr. Stanley Zappa graciously adds to the discourse with his recollection of particulars of trio formation. 

IT has been about 15 years since I left New York City.  That was around 1995.  I didn't know of Matt when I left.  He could have been there at that time—but if he was, I didn't know about him. there was a lot I didn't know when I was in New York."

It wasn't until Matt started blogging on BrilliantCornersABostonJazzBlog that he became a fixture in my consciousness, if only virtually, a few times a month.  Matt's post on the alto clarinet was a turning point of sorts.  I knew Matt as a trumpet player and didn't know he was a 'doubler' immersed in the strange and wonderful world of the single reed, let alone the even stranger world of the alto clarinet—a  world I entered at about the same time as Matt.

Matt also made clear in a number of post his admiration for Sabir Mateen—someone who I also greatly admire, someone with whom I had the delight and honor to make a fair bit of music during my brief smudge of time living in NYC.  What's more, Sabir also plays the alto clarinet.

Aside from Antonio Grippi, who else in “This Music” plays the alto clarinet?  Wouldn't an alto clarinet trio would at the very least be novel, if not a unique phenomena?

The benificient Ben Young was kind enough to open up the studios at WKCR for a not-live recording session.

When told that such an opportunity existed at WKCR, and the notion of a clarinet group was posed, both Matt and Sabir were for it.  Mat said he would put out the word to other clarinet players he knew.  None showed, so a trio it was.

It's worth pointing out that there were no instructions, no directions, no conducting, no heirarchy, no tonal rules, no harmonic rules, no rhythmic rules.  It's worth pointing out if only to voice that music can be made that way, a reality that seems to be constantly “under review.”

The music proceeded naturally, and while “effortlessly” might not be the appropriate word, there wasn't a lot of toiling in the gee-these-changes-are-hard sort of way.  Once constraints are removed then creativity can flourish, and if that's a little overwrought, believe me when I say the absence of 'right and wrong' made for a very open session where in the absence of consequence we played our asses off without a care in the world.

Free Music."
Drumless ensembles have their own particular charm, especially when they are from a particular instrument family with a nice array or ranges.The wood core of clarinets summon imagined  polyphony vines of twining flowers from morning glory and clematis along streams shadow dappled by a sun welcoming upper canopy. 

Mr Lavelle recently finished a recording with a resurgent Giuseppi Logan and is wrapping up work on something new as I type.
All recordings available at CD Baby.

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