Jazz trios led by a horn other than a saxophone are something of a rarity and while Matt Lavelle is known primarily as a trumpet player (William Parker's Little Huey Orchestra), on Spiritual Power he mostly divides the bulk of his time evenly between the mellower flugelhorn and bass clarinet. This band's natural antecedent is Roy Campbell's Pyramid Trio, another non-sax group where the leader riffs over a propulsive bass-and-drum rhythm section. Here, it's bassist Hilliard Greene (an expert in forward motion from his days with Charles Gayle) who plays the pivot, authoritative with his fingers on the title cut, mournful with the bow in unison with Lavelle's darkly tinted bass clarinet on "End Times and crisply on the leading edge of the rhythm as he mimics the vocalized meter of "S?- Se Puede . Drummer Michael TA Thompson is Greene's perfect partner, articulating each note and accenting every beat. Lavelle's tunes have an organic rightness about them, an economy of language that wastes nothing and brings each performance to a satisfying resolution, the end result of an open-hearted and inspired recording session.
Eye Contact is a trio shrouded in mystery. The musicians appear on the back of the CD in ghostly photo-booth strips. On the inside is a dimly lit picture of the band onstage and one of them seems to be leaping into the audience. Their names don't appear anywhere in the package. War Rug draws its energy from this elusiveness, telling wordless trickster stories (instruments echo, shape shift and doppelgang) and emulating shamanic rituals (drones, shakers and distant hand drumming) in improvised compositions that claim no overdubs but overflow with atmospherics. Lavelle spends a lot of time on the bass clarinet and tends to handle it like he would his trumpet, trilling fast runs on "Rhinecliff Hotel that favor the upper end of the big horn's range. Elsewhere, drummer Ryan Sawyer (Tall Firs, Stars Like Fleas) and roaring bassist Matt Heyner (Test, Malkuth) demonstrate hardcore punk tendencies, as if Roy Campbell were fronting the Minutemen.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Spiritual Power; Stars Like Fleas; Si Se Puede; End Times; I Will Have a Love in My Life; Hey Liduva; Seth Speaks.
Personnel: Matt Lavelle: trumpet, flugelhorn, bass clarinet; Hilliard Greene: bass; Michael T.A. Thompson: drums and percussion.
Tracks: Slave Grave; Back in New York; Like I Trust Your Friends; Make Me Have a Baby; The Forest Lord; Rhinecliff Hotel; An Actor on TV; War Rug; The Chill and Then the Stupor; Blackwood.
Personnel: Matt Lavelle: trumpet, bass clarinet, cuica; Matt Heyner: bass; Ryan Sawyer: drums and percussion.