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New Music: Matana Roberts

By Jason Herring, March 19 2015 —

The ambitious and wildly experimental Matana Roberts defies classification. Throughout her new album, Coin Coin Chapter Three: River Run Thee, she dabbles in jazz saxophone, field recordings and spoken word.

The album is the third chapter in a series of 12 records Roberts plans to release in the Coin Coin series. After collaborating with jazz ensembles for her previous two albums, River Run Thee is a solo affair. The result is a more introspective and personal album.

Roberts skillfully explores themes such as race, legacy and identity. This is apparent on the album’s opening track, “All Is Written,” which combines confrontational spoken word with reeling saxophone.

Some of the music comes across as a bit too avant-garde and indulgent. A track like the messy “Dreamer of Dreams” feels too unstructured and noisy to be enjoyed. While this is to be expected on an experimental jazz album, the results can be frustrating.

River Run Thee is a challenging album that tackles difficult subjects. While the experimental tendencies of the record may turn some listeners off, Roberts masterfully combines all of her disciplines to create a daring and fluid piece of art.



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