The sound of Matana Roberts' alto sax spans jazz her-story, from its roots in New Orleans, through the swinging '30s-40s, to the New Thing. Two new releases - one "soul-o sax, the other a quartet - display the breadth and depth of her vision.
Lines for Lacy, a tribute to former mentor/friend Steve Lacy, is a live set of Ellington/Strayhorn standards. The first number, with its slow-moving melodic anchor line surrounded by gossipy upper and lower neighbor tones cascading in liquid legatos, turns out to be a cleverly deconstructed "Take the 'A' Train . "In a Sentimental Mood never strays far from the melody, but contains some 'bent' notes bluer than an Ellington indigo, segueing into a beautiful rendition of "Isfahan , Roberts' breathy, clarinet-like tone exhibiting a rapid, range-roving phraseology. "Prelude to a Kiss - with more primal bending - follows, finishing with "Never No Lament/Don't Get Around Much Anymore , which oscillates in and out from down-home blues to romantically swung lines to stark, existential Ayler-esque ethereality.
The Calling, another live offering, with Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), Thomson Kneeland (bass) and Tomas Fujiwara (drums) added to the mix, balances three original compositions with covers of Sun Ra's "We Travel the Spaceways and two standards. Cornetist Bynum's playing is informed in turns by the 'growling' of Bubber Miley and Cootie Williams ("1863 & "Great Migration ), the cookin'-steamin'-relaxin' cool of mid-Miles ("My Man ) and new-school ecstatics (the title track & "Do You Know What It Means? ) Likewise, Roberts moves between the Bechet-like signifyin' arpeggios of the New Orleans tribute, to the tone poetry of "1863 , to full-on whooping in "My Man. Fujiwara's drums are busy and bustling, playing up, over and around, yet managing to stay thematic, while bassist Kneeland is relatively understated, supportive. The solos dovetail seamlessly, the styles and moods blend effortlessly, melding the voices of jazz ancestry into a history of now.
Tracks and Personnel
Lines for Lacy
Tracks: Introduction; Take the A Train; In A Sentimental Mood; Isfahan; Prelude to a Kiss; Never No Lament/Don't Get Around Much Anymore.
Personnel: Matana Roberts: alto sax.
Tracks: The Calling; 1863; My Man; We Travel the Spaceways; Great Migration; Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans.
Personnel: Matana Roberts: alto sax, clarinet; Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet; Thomson Kneeland: bass; Tomas Fujiwara: drums, percussion.