Thursday, October 01, 2015

Matt Lavelle and Joe Pietaro Harmolodic Monk

Matt Lavelle is a reed and brass player who has studied with Ornette Coleman while John Pietaro is a percussionist and the two have collaborated on duos for ten compositions of Thelonious Monk approached from the musical philosophy of Ornette Coleman. The resulting recording on Unseen Rain is “Harmolodic Monk,” that provides intriguing and in some cases radical deconstruction and rebuilding of some of Monk’s celebrated compositions. Lavalle is heard or cornet, flugelhorn and alto clarinet while Pietaro plays vibraphone, bodhran, congas and percussion.

The unusual nature of their approach can be heard on the opening rendition “Epistrophy” taken at a slower temp than usual with the development of the performance in art involving breaking down the composition and reconstructing it. In addition to his percussion coloring his alto clarinet, Lavelle's employs the vibraphone to offer his own musical construction. Lavelle’s alto clarinet is also featured on “Pannonica” with swoops, leaps and bluesy cries suggestive of Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet while Pietaro’s vibes  provides a shimmering musical underpinning and takes a reflective solo followed by Lavelle returning on cornet to restate the theme.

It is fascinating to hear Lavelle’s machine gun brass blasts on “Green Chimneys” matched by percussion and congas while Pietaro states the theme of “Round Midnight” before Lavelle enters at an unhurried tempo on alto clarinet. “Ruby My Dear” is a performed as a solo interpretation by Pietaro. Pietaro's vibes then open ”Let’s Cool One,” serving as an intro before the entrance of Lavelle’s cornet playing which is mostly unaccompanied. “Blue Monk,” another brass-vibes duet, does not seem as satisfactory a performance until Lavelle transitions into “Straight No Chaser.” Overdubbing may have employed to enable Lavelle play alto clarinet and brass on “Monk’s Mood.”

Monk’s compositions seem to work especially well with spare instrumentation (including the absence of piano) and the imaginative playing of Lavelle and Pietaro intrigue listeners while the familiarity of the compositions provide a foundation to engage those who listen. “Harmolodic Monk,” is a fresh, imaginative approach to one of modern music’s iconic composers of considerable merit.

I receive my review copy from a publicist. Here are the two playing "Blue Monk."


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