Matt Lavelle, January 14, 2017

Tales from the Front

End Times The following are the liner notes to 12 Houses second album on Unseen rain records, about to be released. Stay tuned for the links.   One of the signatures of the 12 Houses is that with the exception of the singularly unique voices of guitar players Jack DeSalvo and Anders Nilsson, very rarely is an instrument doubled. In fact, the only time this occurs is when we are joined by special friends like incomparable global citizen Nicole Johänntgen or shaman Ras Miguel who hails from the mountains of Puerto Rico. Each of the houses is an individual sound-color and story. The seed for the creation go the 12 Houses was planted in a series of discussions I had with Ornette Coleman. In one important conversation, he pointed out to me that, instrumentation aside, what most traditional large ensembles were missing was a balance in male and female energy. I still am not aware of any large group in jazz history which has pursued this elemental balance.  In another discussion, I recall wondering out loud, what it might be like to have a large ensemble in which you could hear every individual color at the same time. Ornette smiled when he said, “There’s only one way to find out.” If we dare to enter the mind of God, we can wonder about what decisions were made in creating life as we know it in order for the human race to become itself. Seemingly, separation by gender and culture continues to be far more than we can handle.

Matt Lavelle, December 11, 2016

Tales from the Front - The Nitty Gritty

Natural Music The other day at my trumpet bar in midtown NYC I was playing Miles live at the Plugged Nickel when another musician stopped by, and informed me that Miles was done after Someday My Prince Will Come. After a moment of shock and disbelief, I wanted to hear why, but all he would say was that Miles lost his way, and doubled down that Barry Harris could validate his position. Of course, one could wonder how could anybody say that everything Miles did after 1961 was irrelevant. Going deeper this is yet another situation where a musician is being told not to play music without a very specific book of rules that you're forbidden to break. At least Wynton, when he was listening to Cecil Taylor with his son, who was into the music, told him he had to choose what kind of music he wanted to play. The bop or bust school doesn't even allow a choice, other than the choice to sign on. I understand that some people need a rule book to structure their lives. Some people need and want to be told not to listen to Miles after 1961, or not to listen to late Coltrane. I subscribe to learning how music works before you try to challenge the process of creating it. Hold on, though--Somehow in all of this are musicians trying to figure out just who they are, and what their natural music is. **FLASHBACK** It's the early days at Smalls, and I've been haunting the 2 am till dawn nightly session.

Matt Lavelle, October 15, 2016

New York City Subway Drama and Beyond - Tales from the Front - The Nitty Gritty

Every Note Counts   A few hours ago here in Astoria Queens, some cops were handing out flyers to people getting off the subway. A white guy with tattoos on his fingers got in my way as I walked in front of the cops, and asked me for a swipe right in front of them. "If you want a swipe, why don't you ask these cops for one," was my mild suggestion. Not only did he do just that, but the cops let him through the turnstile with no issue. White privilege in full effect. One area of NYC that I see some twisted equality going on is 34th Street from 6th Ave to 8th Ave, where I walk five days a week to work. I have never, in 25 years, seen so many homeless people. They have formed survival communities in these areas. It's young, old, black and white. Almost everyone has that cardboard sign explaining how they arrived at that place you end up when you have no place else to go. 34th street is all about spending cash, and the homeless people are not the props that tourists expect to see. What the tourists don't know is that NYC sold it's creative soul some time ago. Doomberg and Ghouliani facilitated the endgame. (That's what Roy Campbell called those demons). Don't step out of line on 34th street, the cops with M-16 machine guns are ready to go on a dime. Skyscrapers are going up everywhere in you look in the playground for the rich. As Daniel Carter stated, not one, more building should go up while is there is one homeless person.

Matt Lavelle, July 10, 2016

Tales from the Front - The Nitty Gritty

Take Back the World   Back in 1957 Governor of Arkansas Orval E. Faubus sent the national guard to prevent integration of Little Rock High School. Everybody involved in jazz knows that Charles Mingus responded with his classic Fables of Faubus, where he turns Faubus into the focus of ridicule for his twisted and racist act. Columbia Records refused to allow the lyrics on the record. Cowards. They eventually made it. On September 15th, 1963 the Klu Klux Klan bombed the 16th st Baptist Church killing four young girls. Addie Mae Collins. Cynthia Wesley. Carole Robertson. Carol Denise McNair. John Coltrane responded with his heartbreaking piece Alabama. I feel that Mingus and Trane established a tradition in jazz, to acknowledge and protest what can only be described as anti-humanity, or pure evil. When Nina Simone sang about the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King she asked us all: "Are they men or are they beasts?" Perhaps I'm out the loop, but the tradition of countering evil with music doesn't seem to happen enough in jazz these. days. People like to get angry on social media, but that's as far as they're willing to go. I'll never forget what this cop told me at a protest I was playing at in Union Square over the way Bush handled Katrina. I was wailing. "You have a choice. Leave now, or I take your horn." I believe in the true power of music, just like Trane and Albert. In the 12 Houses orchestra, I'm driven to be a part of today's world.

Matt Lavelle, May 18, 2016

Tales from the Front - The Nitty Gritty

Transition   These are strange days for people who see life entirely through the lens of jazz and improvisation. Many musicians like myself might feel like we were born at the wrong time. While a select group of musicians has been able to create lives where they can focus all their energy on their music, another group, larger I believe, has to deal with survival first. You have to be alive to give your music life. This struggle is one of the main reasons that Albert Ayler was pushed to the brink and then beyond. When the new round of Doris Duke grants was awarded this year, I exhausted some high energy processing how this process works. I had a revelation: If Albert Ayler was given one of these grants, chances are he would have not only have lived on, but his music would have continued to change and grow. I have personally witnessed great veteran musicians struggle to survive to such an extent that it's an absolute wonder that they can keep their music alive. As I have tried to suggest to the world before, why can't musicians in dire need of support get a mere fraction of some of the money awarded in these music contests? Going deeper still, why does the Jazz Foundation have to exist? Thank god, it does. I have seen their work up close. A sorely needed guitar case for master Bern Nix. New vibes for master Warren Smith after his were destroyed in a storm. Several instances of helping Giuseppi Logan make it just one more day. I found myself on the brink a few years ago.