|Over the years I've seen a lot of "new talent" come and go. Some are very young, some already over-the-hill. All eager to make it and to make the "SCENE." To be hip. Cool. It. Then there are those who come to play the music and to seek mentors and try to make it in the toughest possible scene there is. That being the world of so-called "avant-garde" or "free" jazz, where nothing is free but the music and even that comes at a high cost. No money. Few gigs. Lots of people to impress in a very small though widening community. Self sacrifice. Discipline. And above all finding one's own voice.
Multi-instrumentalist Matt Lavelle (adept on both trumpet and bass clarinet) is the latter. He arrived in New York, to challenge and be challenged. To learn and take and give. And give he does with all his heart, soul, guts to the music and people he loves and respects.
When I first heard Lavelle, I thought "Oh no another new kid in town hookin' up with some of my crazy friends who I admire" like Daniel Carter, Sabir Mateen, William Parker, Roy Campbell (who Lavelle emulates more than anyone on this disc). Why crazy? Because they too have dedicated their lives to this music. I thought, "Where's he goin'?" "Will he get any better?" "He need a lot a work." "He needs to cool out." And sometimes I thought "Geez. He downright sucks." I felt "Hey this is not one of those WOW experiences that keeps me listening." Well quite frankly I didn't think he'd last.
Then BLAM one day he opened my ears and like some but not many, I realized that he had grown, not only as a (hu)man but as a musician. So many I knew dropped by the wayside or remained dedicated but never got any better. So I scratched my head and said "Boy was I wrong about this one." And even though he never knew the way I felt I even apologized to him for my snap judgment.
And now Mr. Lavelle, who is neither longer young, nor over-the-hill, has become one of the most vital and key players on the "SCENE." I have watched him blossom, as his mentors have and as anyone listening to this disc and who might have heard him a few years back can attest to. I have watched his powers, spiritually, emotionally and physically strengthen. I have listened to the way he has expanded upon and smoothed out the edges yet always realizing that he must leave them a bit jagged and rough. Always realizing that the elusive angel freedom is the thing to always seek out try to capture and immediately let loose. Always acknowledging that freedom itself is an illusion and one must chase it while at the same time realizing that it is this very idea of freedom that confounds us all. That traps us. Entices us. And in the sense of the BIG PICTURE, at the risk of repeating myself, is never really there.
Lavelle for me has become a symbol of the times and a force that transcends those times. He is a shockingly melodious gruffly silk-toned being. "I'm not young" he proclaims. "This cd is the culmination of 18 years of practice and not giving up. It took 18 years of living to make the music on this album", this coming from someone who is still in his 30's. "It's now or never" he screams on the bass clarinet. NOW being the BIG NOW of ALWAYS.
With Spiritual Power Lavelle establishes himself as a major player and he is backed on this fine achievement by two stalwart veterans. My long time friend bassist Hilliard Greene whom I first heard play in the late 80's with the great Charles Gayle who has several incredible Silkheart releases and to whom the title track (along with William Parker another Silkheart artist) is dedicated. The other player in this marvelous trio is drummer Michael Thompson, who I heard for the first time a couple of years ago with my birthday brother, trumpeter Roy Campbell. Campell's amazing group The Pyramid trio has a milestone recording on Silkheart and the 3rd track on this disc, Sí se Puede (Yes We Can) is dedicated to them. You see what I mean – Lavelle learns from and never forgets his mentors. As with track 2 Stars Like Fleas which is dedicated to Ornette Coleman someone Lavelle has been spending a lot of time with lately and of whom he states "is my new friend who has changed my life and set me free."
Lavelle's diversity shines through-out this cd. Like the Moon he goes through all the phases. 1/4 tones. 1/2 tones. Full out full/filling all the muse's demands, whims and wishes. This is forceful yet unforced music.
Spiritual Power for Lavelle is the ability to change and/or save one's life through Music and as he states in End Times, which is dedicated to the world at large, we are faced with the near impossible challenge of overcoming ourselves. Yet he also tells us with I Will Have Love in my Life (which he dedicates to himself) that even though he's been alone most of his life it won't always be that way. Other tracks are Hey Liduva a love song for his ex-girl who started life off tragically and Seth Speaks after the book of the same name. All simple messages presented in a complex way through the miracle that is music.