Matana Roberts, The Chicago Project
Roberts returns home to reconnect with her AACM compatriots
Like numerous AACM members before her, alto saxophonist Matana Roberts left Chicago to settle in New York (after a detour to study at the New England Conservatory). For this 2007 recording, she went back home to reconnect with colleagues who've kept very busy in her absence — bassist Josh Abrams, drummer Frank Rosaly, Tortoise's guitarist Jeff Parker — and to invite tenor saxophone elder Fred Anderson to drop in for three close-listening duets. (Their dark, thick tones make a good match.) Roberts writes shapely, minor key-based tunes, which the band brings into focus on the melody statements before stretching out into extended crosstalk on the blowing sections. They never lose their concentration or control. Did any picker with amp and pedals as versatile and resourceful as Parker ever display so little ego in performance? He doesn't need to blast you; it's enough to be the smartest guitarist in any room.