Friday, June 15, 2007
Matana Roberts Quartet - The Calling (Utech Records, 2007) ***
Good marks and bad marks for the free jazz label Utech Records. They get the good marks for their existence and for the risks they're willing to take. Bad marks because the sound quality of their - usually live - recordings is lower than what you can expect nowadays. And that's not a problem with this album only, the same problem manifests itself on other albums of the label. But enough complaints. Matana Roberts has her own quartet now, after having led her sax trio Sticks & Stones for the past years. She is now accompanied by Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet, Thomson Kneeland on bass and Tomas Fujiwara on drums. The band takes on a number of classics, such as Billy Holiday's "My Man", Sun Ra's "We Travel The Spaceways" and Armstrong's "Do You Know What It Means (to Miss New Orleans)", the latter piece obviously referring to the devastation created by hurricane Katrina. This band brings excellent free jazz, with lots op spaciousness and creative interplay, combined with quieter moments, yet it does not hesitate either to bring the core melodies in their traditional swing and bop-mode, or even to add a playful call-and-response between sax and cornet. In sum, a nice trip through jazz history brought from a modern free perspective. The quality of the performance makes the lack of sound quality even more of a shame.