Scott Burton and Glows in the Dark, along with Fight the Big Bull, will be hosting Matana Roberts for a performance on May 22, 2009, at MUSE Creative Workspace. Matana Roberts The Chicago Project Central Control International 2008 Within the first 90 seconds of The Chicago Project’s first track, at least three different themes are […]
The Chicago Project
Central Control International
Within the first 90 seconds of The Chicago Project’s first track, at least three different themes are stated, each in a different tempo and tone. Violently executed chords in free time act as a preface to an uptempo swing theme that fades and turns to something new: a slower and different feel, yet one that is still connected to the two that preceded it.
It would be convenient to attribute such compositional characteristics to saxophonist Matana Roberts’s membership in the AACM–Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, founded in 1965 and based out of Chicago. Music of the AACM has become its own brand of all-encompassing music that twists in and out of themes and styles, with no limits but never contrived. Under Roberts’s leadership, the album pays homage to her and the others’ hometown with the AACM spirit behind each tune. Pianist Vijay Iyer produced the album, which features tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson as well as Josh Abrams (bass), Jeff Parker (guitar), and Frank Rosaly (drums).
This first track, “Exchange,” doesn’t come full circle. It doesn’t have to. The first two themes are not forgotten; in fact, their energies lurk within the fabric of the rest of the piece. After drums and bass lay the groundwork for the third theme, gently swaying in a meter not quite commonplace, guitar and sax sing in harmony. Guitar’s tremolo-heavy chords bridge into Roberts’s first solo of the album. Coercing the band into deconstruction, the rhythmic and harmonic boundaries drip away into a collection of noises from the rhythm section–frantic bass arco, guitar fret noise, bells and flattened drum heads. Roberts re-enters, and bass cues up the swaying theme from before.
The element of deconstruction is also present on “Thrills,” a dark uptempo with a subtle backbeat that sounds like a Glows in the Dark tune. After a theme that features some slick time shifts, the music turns to wholly conversational free jazz. Roberts is as soulful as she is urgent, as willing to take the lead as she is to be led.
“Love Call” marks the savage and the serene in an extended piece free of meter. Roberts reaches a climax, screaming high pitches and honking notes rich with overtones as the band explodes with her. The passion of the theme carries through every note.
In “South By West,” guitar and Roberts solo together, coordinating their melodies’ contours as if to solo as one storytelling mind. Above all else, Roberts exhibits her ability to make the music connected, each thread fastened to the next.
The trio of “Birdhouse 1-3,” interspersed throughout the album, features the duo of Roberts and Anderson and are saxophone duos at the highest level. At times it is a free-for-all as each builds off the other, and at other times one repeats a vamp as his or her cohort solos. The two saxophonists seem to become one person’s thoughts during certain moments. Perhaps the title speaks more about the psycho-fragility of a human mind than the alto saxophone’s avian-named hero.
Tracks: Exchange; Thrills; Birdhouse 1; Nomra; Love Call; Birdhouse 2; South By West; For Razi; Birdhouse 3.
Personnel: Matana Roberts: alto saxophone; Josh Abrams: bass; Jeff Parker: guitar; Frank Rosaly: drums; Fred Anderson: tenor saxophone (3, 6, 9).
Visit Matana Roberts on the web.