Matana Roberts: Live In London

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COMPOSERS: Matana Roberts
LABELS: Central Control
PERFORMER: Matana Roberts (saxophone), Robert Mitchell (piano), Tom Mason (bass), Chris Vatalaro (drums)


At a time when through-composition is to the fore in contemporary jazz it’s good to revisit the central role played in creative music by improvisation – indeed, it’s not so long ago that the ability to improvise an entire set virtually defined it. Matana Roberts doesn’t quite do this, but the free jazz tradition (which, paradoxically, it now is) informs her playing more than anything else. To her immense credit, to hear her is like experiencing the 1960s’ free jazz ‘New Thing’ all over again.


This recording, which was made at London’s Vortex by Radio 3 in 2009, captures the experience to extraordinary effect. Interestingly, the fact that her UK band (which is mostly excellent, although pianist Robert Mitchell loses the plot occasionally) approached the material unrehearsed and largely unseen is deemed worthy of note in the accompanying press release, which rather shows the need for the counterbalance Roberts provides. Roger Thomas