Finally another album by Matana Roberts. The Chicago altoist is kind of underrecorded, and I assume not always too happy with the exposure she gets.
This live performance, recorded at the The Vortex in London in 2009, is among her best album with "Shed Grace" by Sticks & Stones, her trio with Chad Taylor and Josh Abrams, and her "Chicago Project" of two years ago. "The Calling" brought good music, but bad sound quality.
For the occasion, she teams up with three British musicians : Robert Mitchell on piano, Tom Mason on bass and Chris Vatalaro on drums. The band did not get much time to rehearse, and relying on compositions proved to be an excellent basis for further improvisation. And even if Roberts has the main voice on the album, the band does a great job in supporting her warm and energetic playing.
Interestingly enough, when listening to the lengthy opener "Sistr", the expansive post-boppish nature is quite reminiscent of John Coltrane, but then the press release describes it as post-rock as compared to the more "Coltrane-ish" influence on "Turn It Around", which is possibly true in one of his former manifestations. Apart from this, the band also takes on Ellington's "Oska T", circling around the main theme, and at the end a little bit lost on how to move on, hence the fade-out.
She is at her best in the more free form "Glass" on which a soft unaccompanied alto solo develops into an intense duet with the drums, then a duet with the bass - fragile and free - until somewhere halfway the theme emerges in nice full-band unison, pushing the piece into more mid-tempo territories while maintaining the initial sensitivity, equally in one of the few solos that Robert Mitchell plays on piano.
It is not a very adventurous album, but the playing is good and the overall quality excellent.
Watch a clip from the performance at The Vortex
Buy from Instantjazz.