Matana Roberts/Josh Abrams/Chad Taylor: Sticks And Stones (2002)
I had the disc Sticks And Stones spinning in my CD walkman for entire week before I researched the musicians that recorded this approachable session. Listeners may be familiar with the drummer Chad Taylor, a principal in all the various machinations of the Chicago Underground bands, and problably also attuned to basssit Josh Abrams work with Town & Country and Ronnie Boykins’ band. It was the 482 Music site that informed me that saxophonist Matana Roberts was a woman. While I wouldn’t admit to being sexist, it never occurred to me that this reedsman was, well, a reeds-“person.”
A member of Chicago’s AACM, she plays from the Fred Anderson/Ornette Coleman bag of freedom, yet with a tone somewhere from the West Coast coolness of Paul Desmond. The trio sets on a course of upbeat, yet relaxed playing that cites the new thing but attracts your ear instead of repelling it. The three began as the house band for Fred Anderson’ Velvet Lounge, and have worked out a particular approach to their own freedom principle. They take bop oriented tunes like “Lose My Number” and distill it through an early 1960s Ornette Coleman filter. They keep the music within a chamber sound, meaning they maintain equal volume levels between players. There is no overpowering of one player to the detriment of another. Taylor keeps the shifting energies in constant motion as Abrams maintains a strong pulse throughout.
The recording has nine originals (3 by each musician) plus 2 covers. Their take on Junior Delgado and Lee Scratch Perry’s “Sons Of Slave” is a dreamy, lazy raggae walk. Roberts’ saxophone summons Coltrane’s incantations on “Hannibul” as she blows prayers and calls to attention. The ballad “Suhassani” finds Taylor mingling brushes and Abrams soloing to envelope the cautious Roberts.
Track Listing: Turning The Mark; Equally Strong; Lose My Number; Suhassani; End Of The Game; Usetosay; Sons Of Slaves; Hannibul; Spaces; Salvador; Spicer.
Personnel: Matana Roberts