Matt Lavelle, September 9, 2021

Deeper Reality - Tales from the Front

Moon   Yesterday the news came through that the great Jemeel Moondoc has left town forever. Everyday on Facebook we see people responding to someone’s life ending on Earth. For me it feels like the eye of Sauron looking for you, and I hope I don’t get seen. That’s a flip as everyone on social media is trying to be seen. I certainly didn’t want to see that about Moon. I first met him when Roy Campbell Jr asked me to sub for him with Jemeel’s Jus Grew Orchestra for 2 nights at the Jazz Gallery in the early 2000’s. This was the first time I met, heard, and played with Bern Nix. It was mad fun, but I didn’t really know or connect with folks on the personal. Afterwards I recall saying to Roy that some of the music above the staff was hard to play and he said “So what? Those notes are the same as any other notes.” Next up was Steve Swell hired me to record a record with him called This Now! and Jemeel was on it playing alto saxophone. Here was another baptism of fire as all the guys were veterans, and Cooper Moore made it a point to see if I knew who I was, and the truth was I had no idea. This was the only time I was able to play with Wilbur Morris, the great bassist. The rehearsals were intense, but I started to connect with Jemeel. Afterwards I talked to Roy and he said “There’s somebody who’s feeling what you're playing now. Moondoc, and the reason is you play the blues.

Matt Lavelle, July 14, 2021

Deeper Reality - Tales from the Front

Grandpa's Rainbow part 2 (2021) In 1978 I was 8 and showed my grandfather a painting I made of the solar system. He was a great painter and sculptor, though to me he was just my grandfather who taught me to play chess (losing on purpose once to build my confidence) and who taught me to count how far away thunderstorms were by counting the seconds(miles) between the lightning and the thunder. He stopped what he was doing and looked at my solar system and said “good” but offered no more analysis or critique. 2 years later, on his deathbed from liver cancer, he called me to his side and said “You’re the man of the house now.” Then he was gone. His artwork however, was everywhere. Busts of Martin Luther King Jr, Beethoven, John F Kennedy, and Jesus. Large incredible portraits of my mom, my grandmother and again, Martin Luther King Jr. Paintings of clowns, silkscreens, a ceramic cross, even art on hotplates. I studied art myself and went to college in 1988 to get a degree in fine art at Suny New Paltz. There I met a teacher who told me to quit, as I didn’t have the talent or any kind of gift. Miles and Louis were bending my ear, so I decided maybe this art teacher was right, I have nothing to say as an artist. I gave up art and started studying jazz trumpet. If only a few years later at Smalls Jimmy Lovelace didn’t sit me down and tell me to quit music, as I was just not happening. Spiritual whiplash.

Matt Lavelle, June 7, 2021

Deeper Reality - Tales from the Front

Francois Grillot and the Hymn to the Universe   What can you say when one of your oldest longtime brothers in music leaves this world?   Francois was wearing a t-shirt with wolves on it when I met him working at Tower Records Lincoln Center in the early 90’s. The boss sent him to my receiving department for overtime. I gave him these red baskets filled with random returns and stuff to figure out and he went to town. I scored a regular Saturday night gig at a place called the Rainy Daze in Chelsea and was looking for a bass player. Francois said “Hire me man, I can play this shit, I’m telling you.” (I was playing standards then) Boom-we played there for a year. Francois sometimes arrived wearing a coat with a lion's head on it. As the year went on we got more and more modal, and eventually out, at least like Miles, Tony, Wayne, Herbie and Ron out. We also played brunch gigs in the village. It was then that I was introduced to Francois kitchen, where we started playing sessions. What I wouldn’t give for a copy of Misty, one of our duo numbers that we recorded back then. At some point I left NYC on a spiritual quest of sorts. My friend Sarah saw Francois and he told her “Tell Matt to fucking call me!” Francois now had my old job at Tower as the receiving manager. I came back to NYC looking for a job, and I then worked for him at Tower as he had worked for me. Now I was on a mission to play more free and had discovered the Vision scene.

Matt Lavelle, March 24, 2021

Deeper Reality - Tales from the Front

An open letter to NYC and beyond  Just last week here in NYC, I was down in SOHO to deliver one of my paintings to a dear friend. Even through my COVID mask, I caught a whiff of something I knew so well, but haven't smelled in years-a true NYC slice of pizza. I jokingly told my friend Joan on the phone that the sign outside said they had the best Sicilian pizza in NYC, and she quickly informed me that it wasn’t true. Nevertheless, once that smell hit I was lured inside, the same way a pie out of the oven made Tom from the old Tom & Jerry cartoons blissfully float in the air to the windowsill where the pie was cooling. Inside I saw an old man behind the oven and I noticed that the cash register was old school, it wasn’t about entering your debit card. When my beloved slice arrived it had that extra dripping mozzarella mid landslide, over a river of perfect red sauce. The crusty bed was the perfect pillow like texture and temperature, with the heat gently heat rising off and escaping. Yes, a symphony, took place in my mouth. I wasn’t sure if these places still existed in NYC, but what was this really about? I couldn’t sit at that socially distanced table by myself without thinking back to what was really far more important, the post gig slice, where real talk always took place. Over my 30 years in NYC, many many times after the gig, it was time to go cop a slice with Ras Moshe, Sabir Mateen, Daniel Carter, Roy Campbell, Raphe Malik, Bern Nix, and my whole crew over the years.

Matt Lavelle, November 20, 2020

Deeper Reality - Tales from the Front

Broken   Part 1 Many moons ago (I just learned that Earth may have had a second moon) I experienced my first knee dislocation. I was in Little League in the late 70’s. I just went down hard to the ground and didn’t know why. I came to recognize the feeling, when your kneecap slides out of place and you just fall wherever you are. It didn’t stop me from running around back then, though each time it happened more damage was done. Both my knees would dislocate. In high school the backwards diagnosis was for me to wear knee braces with metal bars on both sides. In theory, if the kneecap dislocated and slid out of place, the metal bars would hold me together somehow. The braces were something out of the movie Forrest Gump but smaller. The other kids called me things like robo-knees.   I had knee surgery on my right knee in 1985 I think, and to this day it’s holding on with just the barest amount of cartilage as I understand it. The dislocations in my right knee stopped. My left knee was worse and I didn’t help when I tried to play with the football team without pads on a dare. (The guys in the band were supposedly soft) I carried a few guys a few feet before they piled on. Sometime after this I woke up one day and went right to the basketball court outside and tried to bust some moves. My knee popped and I went down hard and couldn’t get up. I laid there until my father found me. I went to the hospital for surgery number 2, which worked.