His album Found is the first chance for a much wider audience to hear what he brings to the Jazz world and what he brings is a treasure. That treasure is not only his music, his composing and leadership—it is the treasure of himself.
Read the liner notes and discover the man behind the music—a man who loves his family, his life, his wife. Read his (anti)bio on his website (mattlavon.com) and see what drives him to reinvent himself, rediscover the music within himself, and then listen to this splendid album. He discovered treasure is worth the effort of the process.
And then there is the music…
Matt wrote all of the compositions on Found and he pulls in just the right artists to give his compositions the air they deserve.
The album ignites with Attack the Block. Matt opens with the solo soprano sax in an excited run before being joined by drums, then bass, then piano and the four of them pour on the Jazz. The music is so well-constructed that the individual components are very nearly as exciting as the principal instrument. Jay Sawyer’s drums so are melodic and Devin Starks’ bass serves as the anchor. Nitzan Gavrieli’s piano is straight-up but these guys know how to surrender space. Give credit to the artists but these pieces are put together beautifully. Sawyer turns in some terrific drum soloing before the band returns to the main motif to close the song.
What a start to an experience.
Sunday Hamlet Drive begins with the piano-bass-drums trio on a leisurely andante soundtrack that evokes exactly what the title suggests. Closing your eyes, you can see the images that would have inspired Matt to write the music. Gavrieli’s piano gets the nod early and often here but keep your eyes open on what the bass and drums are doing beneath. They create the ideal canvas for Matt’s watercolor sax. Sweet Jazz Impressionism.
Like a Lamenting Song is just that. It is not the absolute agony of a lament; it is the hint of lament. The temp is upbeat and lively but those alto saxophone changes are a bit blue. Here’s what I like: it is not something maudlin and overwhelmingly emotional. It is a melancholy played over something hopeful and even joyous. It is a past-tense lament—a lament that has been survived and even overcome. Stunning work. Brilliant arrangement. It also has some of Gavrieli’s finest quick-shots on piano. The cymbal washes just add to the idea of subdued/overcome emotions.
Then comes the presto-vivace of Bee’s Keys which flips between quick runs and extended tonality. Devin Starks catches fire in his running bass beneath Gavrieli and then they both slow the run to a walk before lighting it up again. Then the rhythm section turns in extended sweetly crafted Jazz trio highlights as the piece prepares for the return of Matt’s soprano sax which is masterfully fulfilling after the moments of brilliant anticipation in his absence.
Matt lets the trio play and he gives them space but the sum effect is that the trio work makes one expectant for what the joining sax will add. These artists create breathless excitement and then deliver. Every time.
Boomp Boom is a hot piece of Jazz. Matt and Gavrieli make some great trades and then go on extended runs together as Starks and Sawyer keep the thunder rolling. This is something to be heard, no doubt. The solos are wonderful and every aspect of the piece (including Gavrieli’s vocalization) create both satisfaction and anticipation. Satisfaction at what the entire album has thus far achieved and anticipation in what the next (and final) track will bring. The fade only enhances that feeling.
Found is the song that finishes the album. There is a sense of completeness and arrival in the piece. Matt says that the song was written for his wife. Ah, that explains the completeness. They have found each other and he has found his way back.
Interestingly, the previous five tracks all created a sense of somewhere else to go, something unfinished or left undone. This, the title track, is complete in itself and leaves no desire to go anywhere else. It is not forward toward fulfillment; it is forward because of fulfillment.
Before Found, Matt La Von wondered if he had lost himself somewhere along the way or if he was a case of arrested development. It was love that allowed him to be found and to create Found. Whether lost or blocked or stalled, Found proves that, in the end, that quiet time was simply the deep breath before the plunge.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl