If the quilts of Gees Bend can have a unifying look, can the “free jazz” of Lower Manhattan have a unifying sound? If it can, those unifying characteristics might include idiosyncrasy over slickness, directness over flourish, gesture over precision, frenetic abundance over pastoral quietude—a description which fits the city, its music and Matt Lavelle's "Goodbye New York, Hello World" in particular.
Lavelle delivers heroic performances on both clarinet and trumpet, which if you have ever played either you know is quite a feat to do on both. To what degree does one inform the other? They are two very different instruments organized and operated in two very different ways. My sense is that “looking” at improvisation from the perspective of a brass and reed player, subject to the strengths and limitations of both, has been an occasion for focus and crystallization.
Lavelle's clarinet playing on "You're the Tonic" is nothing short of epic, as is (what I believe to be) his flugelhorn playing on "Rose"—in it is everything you could want in a trumpet solo from a full, enveloping tone to a rapid cascade of notes winding unexpectedly over foundations laid by Francois Grillot on bass.
In the event there was any question what part of the jazz spectrum "Goodbye New York, Hello World" inhabited, Ras Moshe grounds the project squarely under the Lower East side “Free Jazz” umbrella, and it is in those extended minutes that he is at his most convincing. Successfully participating in a way of playing the saxophone that found its most storied expression in Pharaoh Saunders, Archie Shepp and Albert Ayler takes time and dedication to the craft—usually at the cost of something else. It is when Moshe plays the “normal” notes on the horn that interest is likely to flag.
"Goodbye New York, Hello World" is a highly listenable document of the “Free Jazz” reality in New York at this time. Like it, hate it, the fact remains that this quartet and this recording is part of a history and lineage.
Lavelle is a vested member of that lineage, a position he's earned through hard work and staying power. His connections to that city and its canonical figures—about which he has written in his own blog—combined with an indisputable way with brass and woodwinds makes Lavelle, now and forever, more than just a passing footnote not only in the New York musical community, but a figure in the larger musical/historical narrative.
The band : Matt Lavelle - trumpet and bass clarinet, Ras Moshe - saxes, François Grillot - bass, Bob Hubbard - drums.
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