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Sticks and Stones
Downtown Music Gallery review
MATANA ROBERTS/JOSH ABRAMS/CHAD TAYLOR - Sticks and Stones

Matana plays alto sax, comes from Chicago, but is currently residing in Boston and sat in with Ras Moshe here at DMG a few weeks ago. I was quite impressed with her tone and playing, as well as her friendly, soft spoken charm. Josh and Chad are the in-demand rhythm team from Chicago Underground and also played here once as well. Starting with Matana's "turning the mark", the sax and bass play in slow motion while the drummer spins quickly and quietly, still all three float together on soft waves. Nice. Josh's "equally strong" is led by the bass setting the tricky pace while the sax and drums swirl around that central repeating riff and each take impressive solos. "lose my number" sounds like a bop tune and swings hard and fast with the drummer pushing Matana's alto higher and higher until the boiling point, then slowing back down again. Chad's "suhassani" is a hushed ballad which Matana pushes into high gear when she solos, midway she slows down while the rhythm team flies quickly around her, an odd yet successful balance of opposites. An odd choice might seem like Lee Perry/Jumior Delgado's "sons of slaves", but the trio do a fine job doing a somber, yet hypnotic version of this reggae tune. Matana's "hannibul" is a free and flows beautifully, creating a web of mesmerizing shades and colors. Matana's graceful tone on her "spaces" tune reminds me of Lee Konitz, gliding over the use of somber mallets. I dig the drummer's dancing groove on "salvador", which has quite an infectious melody, but ends too soon. The final piece is Josh's "spicer", which has some of the softest sax and bass imaginable, while the drums build in intensity throughout and tell a long story. Jimmy Giuffre inspired, maybe? Restraint is the common thread here, the trio do an impressive job of keeping things engaging, without ever having to scream loudly.

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