There is an unearthly quality about the sound of alto saxophonist Matana Roberts. Her supranatural cry takes you back to Ornette Coleman, to Charlie Parker to the streets, to the river, to the land, places only she knows and yet somehow we can sense the haunting terrain. Her poetry is of the saxophone and also springs from words themselves uttered from her mouth taken from her writings.
Her Coin Coin project is as much history and sociology as it is music as her vision embraces much beyond the wail of the saxophone and the notes on the page. She manages to draw on punk, on rock, a sense of Indian music too and much else with the connotation of the blues never far away. But above all on a highly abstract collage sound that slaps clusters on clusters and darts between atonality, the fractured universe explored for decades by the AACM as one input, and a pantonal world of melody and rhythmic jolt that is as much paint on a canvas as notes in the air.
With guitarist-oudist Sam Shalabi, the multi-instrumentalist Hannah Marcus, drummer Ryan Sawyer, and bassist Nicolas Caloia plus some stellar guests notably the great, trombone icon, Steve Swell chipping in, she is in a universe where sounds flick back and forth in unexpected ways. A world of remnants and folk memory and yet the tramlines of the structures of the improvisations are always sketched out, rusting and warped.
Her approach is not one of easy answers: a rubbing out of bebop and then an imposition of new sounds on top of the remants with Memphis in her mind's eye and a bird's eye vision of its mythic present and searing past where the voice of the poet one we should be paying heed to but more a voice in the wilderness included in the panorama. A saga of cinematic scope. The story is not fully told yet what an achievement Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis is and further listening can only enlarge upon its array of detail.