Monday, August 13, 2018

Matt Lavelle and Reggie Sylvester - Retrograde (ESP-Disk, 2018)

Matt Lavelle on trumpet, fluegelhorn and alto clarinet and Reggie Sylvester on drums have been active in the NYC avant garde jazz scene for years, playing in the late guitarist Bern Nix's Quartet and other groups. On this disc, they take their inspiration from the classic duo album Interstellar Space by John Coltrane and Rashied Ali. Their music explores the planets that that weren't mentioned in that album, and meditate on the message and the music of that record from the vantage point of fifty years on. This album works quite well, whether the pair are blasting through loud and powerful sections of free jazz or quieter passages of abstract improvisation. They open on "Uranus" with Sylvester keeping the rhythm opens with cymbals ebbing and flowing, and Lavelle probing at the available real estate, before diving in on trumpet, leading to a fluid and dynamic trio improvisation. The pace of the conversation gradually increases, as Lavelle is fleet and potent at speed while Sylvester both accents and accentuates the growing musical adventure. "Neptune" has bursts of powerful percussion juxtaposed by areas of mysterious quiet. Jabs of clarinet, and curls of quieter sound allow the jagged dynamism of the piece to really take hold. Branching even further out to the dwarf planet "Pluto" and moving though a spare and enigmatic improvisation that makes use of the available space with light clarinet and restrained percussion painting a deft picture. Lavelle returns to trumpet on the powerful "Mercury" with strong blasts of brass meeting equally powerful percussion creating an exciting and relentlessly cascading free improvisation. The trumpeter sits out for a very interesting drum solo that takes the track to its conclusion. Uncertainty and ambiguity is at the heart of "The Sun" with shimmering cymbals opening the way for the clarinet to enter, allowing the music to emerge in a creative evolution, with cries of reedy clarinet framed by cymbals and percussion. The finale, "Earth" is a mid-tempo duet, hanging in the air and played with mutual respect as the improvisation grows into its full flowering. It's fitting that this album is released on the ESP label, home to the early work of iconoclasts like Albert Ayler, Sonny Simmons and Frank Lowe, given the unfettered nature of the interplay between Lavelle and Slyvester. The hearken back to those heady days while remaining completely modern and as fresh as tomorrow's news. Retrograde -

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