Matt Lavelle, October 13, 2021

Deeper Reality - Tales from the Front

The End Hello to any and all readers of my writing. I started writing publicly in 2009. Since then I have posted 392 blog posts and it looks like people have read my writing about 20,000 times. Thank you! I'm not that good at wordpress stats. This will be my last public writing post for some time. If I ever come back to writing publicly, I’ll be a different person. The very first public writing I did was published in what is now called the New York City Jazz Record. I wrote an article called “The courage to really play.” This was more than 10-15 years ago. I was then the subject on some kind of jazz or free jazz online public forum, when a friend of mine wrote to me and said I better get over there, people were coming after me big time. Public judgement of Matt Lavelle was then in full force before MySpace or Facecrook. Highlights were “Matt Lavelle is a whiny bitch”, and “His playing is just macho posturing bullshit.” The one comment that stuck with me was “Heal yourself before trying to tell others how to relate to music.” In truth I wrote the piece in an attempt at creative actualization, you know, the way Art Farmer said about Miles: “He plays like the person he wants to be.” It was then that the late Chris Rich from Cambridge asked me to guest write on his blog Brilliant Corners. Chris was hardcore and when I played the Outpost up there I learned he was living in the back on the edge of life.

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.