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Sticks and Stones is a Chicago-born trio featuring alto saxophonist Matana Roberts, bassist Joshua Abrams, and drummer Chad Taylor. The group first came together as members of the Sunday night house band at Chicago’s Velvet Lounge.
"I think we all realized, just from playing together a few times, that something was there that really could not be explained," remembers Roberts. "It was a comfort so automatic that we could just grow from that point. Our sound is really a collective thing and what you hear on the disc is honest music that was recorded the same way. Honest is my favorite word to describe Sticks and Stones because we’re continuing the Chicago tradition of crafting one’s own sound."
Although most of the trio’s membership no longer resides in Chicago, Sticks and Stones is very proud of its hometown and the lineage of the city’s many independent-minded musicians. Roberts is a member of the historic Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and both Abrams and Taylor perform with some of Chicago’s most innovative new ensembles. Abrams, who has demonstrated his musical versatility as a founding member of the hip-hop inspired group, The Roots, and on his own eclectic 2002 solo release, Busride Interview, performs regularly with Town and Country and David Boykin’s Expanse/Outet. Taylor is the drummer for the acclaimed Chicago Underground ensembles, and has performed with revered leaders Joe McPhee, Roscoe Mitchell, William Parker, Peter Brotzmann, among many others. The trio’s collective debut features three original compositions from each member, along with covers of John McNeil’s "Lose My Number" and Lee Perry’s "Sons of Slaves."
"A lot of the music I play with Sticks and Stones I could not play with other people because I find that I write for them and I feel like they do the same," says Roberts. "Whenever I play with other bass players, I have to stop myself from comparing because I’m so used to hearing Josh’s beautiful sound. And, Chad is one of the most creative drummers I’ve ever played with. The things he can do with time and sound and groove is so solid that he just feels like a rock. The most exciting thing to me is that, even with our great comfort level, our process is still evolving."
Matana Roberts , an associate member of the AACM, has performed with Vijay Iyer, Tom Abbs, Ralph Alessi, Nicole Mitchell, Ravi Coltrane, Taylor Ho Bynum, Fred Anderson, Tatsuya Nakatani, Don Byron, David Boykins, Joe Maneri, Steve Swell, Steve Lacy, Eugene Chadbourne and Butch Morris among many others. Besides her collaboration with Sticks and Stones, Matana is an avid freelancer. She performs regularly with Ras Moshe’s Music Now Collective and is a member of Greg Tate’s Afro Funk Orchestra Burnt Sugar. She is currently working on material for her first large ensemble—Project X. Matana is also a faculty member for the School for Improvisational Music in New York City.
Josh Abrams is best known for his work with Town and Country; he has released one solo album and plays also with the David Boykin Expanse/Outet; and has worked with Brokeback, Sam Prekop, Bobby Broom, and Tortoise .
Chad Taylor is one half of the Chicago Underground Duo (and therefore key member of the Trio/Quartet/Orchestra); he has played with with Malachi Favors, Ernest Dawkins, Joe McPhee, Peter Brotzman, Roscoe Mitchell, Jameel Moondoc, Fred Anderson, William Parker, and Hamid Drake, among many others.
"..the sort of transcendent musicality and versatility that has characterized the development of free jazz." — New Music Box
"…this trio proves that it knows its stuff, and demonstrates that the new generation of free jazzers is alive and thriving." — Signal to Noise