When hearing the Chicago-based saxophone-bass-drum trio Sticks and Stones, it helps to remember what their style is steeped in. Sticks and Stones reminds jazz fans that its openly improvised format, sound, and playing is rooted both in Ornette Coleman's famous 1959 engagements at the Five Spot in New York where the iconoclastic saxophonist turned the bebop world upside down when he played his "new thing" to curious listeners, and in the sax-bass-drum team of Sonny Rollins, Wilbur Ware, and Elvin Jones at the Village Vanguard in November of 1957.
Sticks and Stones is made up of AACM member/saxophonist Matana Roberts, bassist Josh Abrams, and drummer Chad Taylor. Their second release from Thrill Jockey Records, Shed Grace , fills the listener's mind with the abstract ramblings of Coltrane's late '60s work and the free-jazz explorations of Ornette Coleman. Shed Grace contains mostly originals but also features covers by Fela Kuti, Thelonious Monk, and Billy Stayhorn.
The second track from Shed Grace , "The Refusal," highlights drummer Chad Taylor's expectional use of percussion, making for an authentic sound of indigenous Africa. Saxophonist Roberts, who has played with jazz greats like Ravi Coltrane and Don Byron, plays sweet melodies that hover above Taylor's ride cymbal and mingles with Abrams' bass solo.
With a funky opening beat, "Colonial Mentality" mantains a steady bass line throughout most of the song while Taylor and Roberts trade solos. By the middle of song, Taylor goes back into the opening beat and Roberts laments as the song closes.
"Isufahan," one of the longest tracks on Shed Grace, is a perfect example of Sticks and Stones' capability of on-the-spot improvisation. "Isufahan" is a walking urban blues number that shows the trio can sound just as live in the studio as they can at the late-night sessions at their favorite Chicago club, the Velvet Lounge.
Personnel: Matana Roberts,alto saxophone; Josh Abrams,bass; Chad Taylor,drums,percussion