The open-form freedom, new thing now jazz world of contemporary New York has a 16-member big band that shows us where the music is on a recent release. I’m talking about Matt Lavelle’s 12 Houses and their album Solidarity (Unseen Rain 9945). The band runs through six Lavelle pieces that have each a special melodic mood soulfulness and act as a catalyst for the considerable collective and individual improvisational thrust of the band members.There’s Matt on cornet, flugelhorn and alto clarinet (and conduction), Ras Moshe Burnett on tenor soprano, soprano and flute, Jack DeSalvo on banjo and mandola, John Pietaro on vibes and percussion, Francois Grillot on double-bass, Anais Maviel on vocals, plus soprano and clarinet (Odom), alto and clarinet (Waters), baritone and bass clarinet (Stocker), flute and piccolo (Cherney), bassoon (de Brunner), piano (Forbes), violin (Ortman), cello (Selinger), guitar (Nillson) and drums (Sawyer). In other words a very full band with players who articulate the melodic-harmonic gamut with a special collective sound and can blow.
There are some dirge-like threnodies, some sanctified testifying and some blow-outs, all showing a very together Lavelle approach and a group that knows where to go with it all. Ras takes some blistering moments to call the spirits on tenor, Matt shines in his solo moments (dig “Cherry Swing”), but really this is for everybody in the end.
And it is a remarkable set, showing us roots and toots, troubled times and resolved transcendence, queueing up and getting there, a gentleness and a fierceness, fragility and strength, all that it takes to keep scuffling but never shuffling.
It is fabulous music from a band that I hope is destined to become an institution in the city. They have what it takes and they show it, they let loose and blow the world forward.
Lavelle is a trailblazer, a full force, a jazz composer and bandleader of stature, a player of strength and depth. And the band is on it.
So very recommended it is!! Grab one.