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.

Matt Lavelle, May 3, 2016

The Nitty Gritty

Jazz and the quest for truth   So when President Obama was ten years old in 1971, he got to spend a month with his father, whom he said he rarely saw. His father took him to see his first jazz concert. Dave Brubeck. Now in 2016 he just hosted an International jazz day at the White House, which he renamed the blues house just for the day, saying that the name change was on the agenda of presidential candidate Dizzy Gillespie back in the day. I saw one compressed hour of this event live on ABC just this past Saturday. I relished another chance to see Obama’s take on jazz. As usual, it was Michelle who was clearly feeling the music on a deeper level. The event came off as an industry creation to me. It reminded me of the same musicians I was always being told to push when I was Jazz buyer at Tower Records, which went down in flames way back in 2006. Diana Krall and Jamie Cullum are media and industry creations. Sorry, but Obama himself just said that what we do in jazz is tell the truth. We all know singers who could obliterate them. Sting may have hired Branford Marsalis, but so what? That doesn’t mean he should get to stand on such an epic stage and represent. I knew when I saw Wayne that he would straighten all this mess out. They asked him to play with the 12-year-old prodigy, pianist Joey Alexander. To his credit, Joey took his time, listened and responded to Wayne, who was being Wayne, playing pure and total risk.

Matt Lavelle, March 20, 2016

Tales from the Front

Giuseppi Logan and redemption When Giuseppi’s angel reached out to me a few weeks ago, I knew it was time to get out to the end of the A line once more. His health had him reeling, and he had been wavering in and out of tune with the world. Was his saxophone sick too? The late great Will Connell told me the reason some people couldn’t hear Giuseppi’s music back in the day was that he never had the right mouthpiece. Maybe I could get a hold of Adolphe Sax using an Ouija board to discuss a solution. A primary concern was that G’s keyboard had run out of gas. We promptly took action. I acquired a decent Yamaha, and sent it out to Far Rockaway. It was no different than getting somebody some emergency medicine. No musica, no vida. No music, no life. Soon after this my staycation hit, and I made getting out to see G priority one. I found him in the eating area, and the kind folks there made me a plate so that G and I could break bread. Mr. Logan was in a very lucid state, more than usual, and we were happy to see each other. I took the opportunity to ask him a bunch of questions as he has become part of my thesis at Rutgers where I’m pursuing a Masters in jazz history with Dr. Lewis Porter. The more time I spend with Giuseppi, the more I understand his message to the world, and my responsibility to add his message to my own so that we can both move forward together. We’re two human beings on the circus wheel of life. If only I had the resources.