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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Matana Roberts - Live In London (Central Control, 2011) ****

By Stef

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.

© stef


joesh said...

Hi Stef

I'm kind of curious to understand your remark :

"I assume not always too happy with the exposure she gets."

I have an excellent recording somewhere of her playing live in London. Robert Mitchell really blows up a storm as do the rest of the band. I imagine it comes form the same period as the album, although I seem to remember it being reasonably 'improvised'.

She (Mantana) also has a blog with some interesting posts from time to time.

Michael Campbell said...

I'd imagine you would be reviewing it soon, but the first part of her 'Coin Coin' project is getting released on Constellation(Stable of Godspeed you Black Emperor and bands sprouting from them). I've already heard it through pre-ordering from the label and it's almost as harrowing as the live experience of it was. Amazing record.

Anonymous said...

Matana seems to visit us in London quite regularly and i've seen her on every occasion, I think, including the one recorded on this CD. She played a very interesting duo with Seb Rochford earlier this year.

Certainly second Robert Mitchell's great playing.

I'm keenly awaiting the Coin Coin disc as all I've read about this project has intrigued. Hoping she may present it over here sometime.