thu 20/07/2017

CD: Matana Roberts - Coin Coin Chapter Two: Mississippi Moonchile | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Matana Roberts - Coin Coin Chapter Two: Mississippi Moonchile

CD: Matana Roberts - Coin Coin Chapter Two: Mississippi Moonchile

Compelling second instalment of alto sax player's magnum opus

A terrific New York sextet seem entirely at one with the powerful emotional thrust of Roberts's music
A ritualistic beauty: Matana Roberts

It's only the truly great albums that usher you into a sound-world that is entirely sui generis. And so it is with this second chapter of jazz sax player and composer Matana Roberts's Coin Coin project, a vast musical work-in-progress exploring themes of history, memory and ancestry. 

Divided into 18 separate tracks, but heard as one continuous arc of sound, we enter into the leader's all-encompassing “panoramic sound quilting”, as she calls it, a reference both to her family’s handicraft heritage but also to the collage-like juxtaposition of her materials.

Over a bowed pedal note in the double bass, tintinnabulating interjections in the upper register of the piano, and busy yet understated brushwork in the drums, the transfixing “Invocation” unfolds with Roberts's alto sax lines flowing freely over the top. 

Incorporating sung and spoken narratives and a terrific New York sextet who seem entirely at one with the powerful emotional thrust of Roberts's music - Shoko Nagai (piano, vocals), Jason Palmer (trumpet, vocals), Jeremiah Abiah (operatic tenor vocals), Thomson Kneeland (double bass, vocals), Tomas Fujiwara (drums, vocals), plus Roberts herself (alto sax, vocals) - this is music of an exceptionally strong character. There's a sense of complete advocacy from all hands here, with special mention going to the richly-toned tenor vocalist Jeremiah Abiah.

The juxtaposition of materials is mirrored in the intermingling of genres, from the blues (“Responsory”) to folk (“River Ruby Dues”) to free jazz (“Lesson”). The use of repeating thematic cells and ostinatos imbues the music with an almost ritualistic quality, nowhere more so than the sublime “Benediction” which brings Mississippi Moonchile to a close, the musical texture finally pared down to leave only the purity of the human voice.

Those familiar with Roberts's work will need no further encouragement to investigate further, while those new to it are urged to cast their net a little wider.

Overleaf: Watch Matana Roberts perform at the 2007 London Jazz Festival

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