Matt Lavelle 12 Houses

Unseen Rain UR-9945

By Ken Waxman

True believer in the latitude of free jazz, multi-instrumentalist Matt Lavelle has worked in ensembles with such advanced music figures as, William Parker and Butch Morris. Now like a post doctoral fellow ready to take his mentors’ research in new directions, Lavelle has organized a 16-piece band, whose in-the-moment unity splendidly reflects the experiences designated by the horoscope’s 12 houses.

Following the philosophy of post-doc clinicians whose experiments are multi-disciplinary, the six tracks Lavelle created for Solidarity are satisfying because he has blended additional currents into the program. Building on the large group acumen in Parker’s bands and utilizing conduction that Morris initiated, Lavelle, who plays cornet, flugelhorn and alto clarinet here, moves beyond expected jazz tropes and instrumentation. Besides the usual saxophones, piano, guitar, bass and drums, 12 Houses is inhabited by piccolo, bassoon, violin, cello, percussion, banjo and mandolin plus the wordless vocalization of Anaïs Maviel.

The result is chameleon-like themes, which for example have pianist Chris Forbes cracking out dynamic kinetics in “Brooklyn Mountain” as if he was Cecil Taylor on Unit Structures, yet playing so straightforward on “Faith” that the linkage is to 19th Century Romantic tropes, with a detour into a devotee’s parlor for a church hymn.

Besides Lavelle, the standout soloists are alto saxophonist Charles Waters and tenor saxophonist clarinet; Ras Moshe Burnett especially during those moments of altissimo ecstasy, on the title track and elsewhere, as if they were Archie Shepp and John Tchicai on Ascension. Maviel too has the ability to alter her tessitura so that she blends with the strings or doubles the reed parts. Lavelle also harmonizes the bowed and plucked strings to provide interludes of delicate reserve. It’s an indication of his wit and the group’s freedom that as it’s grooving on “Cherry Swing”, prodded by François Grillot’s symmetrical pulse, cadence turn to cacophony when banjoist Jack DeSalvo uncorks a salvo of twangs as if Earl Scruggs has pushed his way into a Count Basie jam.

Solidarity is the equivalent of research that builds on its antecedents to affect a breakthrough. But it’s a lot more fun than a scientific paper – dig the gospel-like handclapping at the climax to “Faith”.

Tracks: Solidarity; Brooklyn Mountain; Knee Braces; Cherry Swing; Moonflower interlude; Faith

Matt Lavelle: cornet, flugelhorn, alto clarinet; Lee Odom: soprano saxophone, clarinet; Charles Waters: alto saxophone, clarinet; Ras Moshe Burnett: tenor, soprano saxophones, flute, bells; Tim Stocker: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet: Mary Cherney: flute, piccolo; Claire de Brunner: bassoon; Chris Forbes: piano; Laura Ortman: violin; Gil Selinger: cello; Anders Nilsson: guitar; Jack DeSalvo: banjo, mandolin; François Grillot: bass; Ryan Sawyer: drums; John Pietaro: vibraphone, percussion; Anaïs Maviel: voice

—For The New York City Jazz Record June 2016