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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Photo by Brett Walker

Matana Roberts is a Chicago-bred, NYC-based composer-performer with an interest in “the mystical roots and spiritual traditions of American creative expression.”

Over the course of fifteen years of working as a saxophonist, composer, and bandleader, she has released numerous albums under her own name and led ensembles in performance in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. In addition to her own projects, Matana has cut her teeth as a sideperson with Greg Tate’s Burnt Sugar, Reg E. Gaines and Savion Glover, The Oliver Lake Big Band, The Julius Hemphill Sextet, and Merce Cunningham dance, and collaborated in the studio with bands such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor and TV On The Radio.

Matana’s most recent release, COIN COIN Chapter One: Gens de couleur libres (Constellation), earned numerous accolades, including the #2 slot on SPIN magazine’s list of the 20 Best Avant Albums of 2011. They write:

Deeply spiritual, sadistically dissonant, and evocative as any novel, New York composer Matana Roberts uses numerous jazz disciplines to concoct this arresting patchwork of “compositional sound language”: tortured “scream sing,” post-rock improv, saxophone flurries, and spacepressionist Sun Ra mayhem. The album is an hourlong suite about the 18th Century African experience in America, part fact and part fiction, with Roberts taking harrowing roles as orphans and slave auctioneers in between hailstorm sax workouts.

After presenting her work in various configurations over the past ten years, we invited Matana to test drive new work on our stage during a three-month performance residency. This Saturday, Matana will give the first of three performances (one each month) with a quartet featuring the guitarist Liberty Ellman, the bassist Kevin Tkacz, and the drummer Ches Smith.

We really look forward to this run, and apparently so does Time Out New York; they’ve selected the residency as a Critics’ Pick.

You can stream a mix from COIN COIN Chapter One: Gens de couleur libres below, courtesy of Constellation Records (the label notes that this album is “some of the most honest and compelling work…that [they]’ve had the privilege to be associated with”):

If you are hungry for more, head over to The Village Voice blog “Yes In My Backyard” (penned by Christopher Weingarten) for a free download and accompanying interview. Or just buy tickets.