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Matana Roberts, Pat Thomas, The Truth

The truth is always enough. Saxophonist Matana Roberts and pianist Pat Thomas of Black Top in duo recorded live at Cafe Oto in east London on 8 December 2018. Roberts on 'Part 2' as so often in her sound does to the alto saxophone what Anthony …

Published: 6 Nov 2020. Updated: 5 months.

The truth is always enough. Saxophonist Matana Roberts and pianist Pat Thomas of Black Top in duo recorded live at Cafe Oto in east London on 8 December 2018. Roberts on 'Part 2' as so often in her sound does to the alto saxophone what Anthony Braxton did to the music of Charlie Parker as an advanced starting point, everything is then brand new in her vision. She is a free improviser in the best sense, that is one who can compose in the moment via a fully intact set of ideas in that elapsed time of improvisation.

The Truth is not all about Roberts by any means and a key point is how two instrumentalists in the moment adapt their own vision to the other's not by submission but by comprehension and intuition, the two indistinguishable. Certainly Thomas on the above track fires Cecil Taylor-like chords as punctuation. That changes on 'Part 3' where he is more interested in the innards of the piano, reverberating hammer sounds are warped and become unearthly. Roberts is more bluesy and that blues connotation means the track is more of a lament that never forgets to acknowledge.

How the album began on 'Part 1' was full of grandeur. Thomas's introduction had a sweep to it that when Roberts comes in exudes a further sense of calm statement and reality. Thomas is more Monk-like at the beginning of 'Part 2' but that fleeting sense evaporates in a maelstrom of intertwining lines. A wonderful duo album that's The Truth. The proof is all present and surrounds. On OTOroku

Tags: Album / EP reviews

Ben Wendel, High Heart

Fusing vocals and instrumental jazz is something of a search for the holy grail. That search may well be an impossibility although the searching here has a completeness to it, a process, that makes such an aspiration burn that bit more brightly. …

Published: 5 Nov 2020. Updated: 5 months.

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Fusing vocals and instrumental jazz is something of a search for the holy grail. That search may well be an impossibility although the searching here has a completeness to it, a process, that makes such an aspiration burn that bit more brightly. Michael Mayo again is that innovator who is important on the title track, sitting on top of an engrossing, lapping statement of uneasy flux. 'Burning Bright' punches out a tense theme that saxophonist Ben Wendel who has written all the music on the record powers into, the strong pianism, Shai Maestro and Gerald Clayton both alternating on Fender Rhodes throughout, adding plenty of detail and again Mayo punctuating the sound, sub clause after sub clause heightening the effect and the statement of intent. You might quibble that the acrobatics of the musicianship is too much at times. But against that the cleverness about the writing is that when the push is on, there is a willingness to eventually step back.

Take 'Kindly', an anti-ballad that moves in and out of a pensive mood to surge and let the tide rise and fall away. Mayo is more reflective on 'Less' and you can get a sense of Wendel's concept of space. 'Drawn Away' moves into Chris Potter territory more, Nate Wood a busy presence on drums. 'Fearsome' sets several hares running and you might see this piece as more of an exercise in form, certainly the structures are complex and yet the results are easy to consume and just believe in rather than analyse. The Fender Rhodes passages manage to avoid the usual sound pictures the instrument throws up although 'Darling' does not grab me as much as some of the other tracks. 'Traveler' at the end underlines Mayo's role on the album. Wendel's writing is often intense but never over cooked and it is a vision that tries for the impossible and knows that dreaming is all. Out on Edition.