Matana Roberts – COIN COIN Chapter Two: Mississippi Moonchile
Matana Roberts is a Chicago-born, New York City-based saxophonist and sound experimentalist, a past member of the BRC: Black Rock Coalition and the AACM: The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, whose innovative work has forged new conceptual approaches to considering narrativity, history, and political expression within improvisatory structures.
COIN COIN Chapter Two: Mississippi Moonchile is the much-anticipated new instalment of Roberts' unique and forward-looking project. Guided by an aesthetic practice she has dubbed 'panoramic sound quilting' (partly in homage to the literal handicraft heritage of her patrilineal line), COIN COIN finds Roberts conjuring some of the most nuanced, thoughtful and substantial American liberation music of the 21st century.
COIN COIN has also been a profoundly generous and collaborative process for Roberts, who has been developing various chapters of the COIN COIN cycle with a wide range of musicians from diverse backgrounds over many years. The hugely acclaimed Chapter One: Gens de couleur libres was the culmination of two years of regular visits to Montréal and featured fifteen musicians assembled from that city's out-jazz, experimental and avant-rock scenes. Chapter Two: Mississippi Moonchile was developed for a more intimately woven New York jazz sextet and was recorded with this group in late 2012, following several years of local and international performances of the piece with this line-up.
Mississippi Moonchile takes the next leap forward in Roberts' iconoclastic and complex project of memory and recuperation, where historical and contemporary musical tropes, fragmentary spoken and sung narratives, and Matana's cascading alto saxophone are supported by prodigiously talented players on piano (Shoko Nagai), trumpet (Jason Palmer), double bass (Thomson Kneeland), drums (Tomas Fujiwara) and operatic tenor voice (Jeremiah Abiah). While demarcated by 18 titles and track IDs, the album presents an uninterrupted, incantatory swirl of through-composed music, where thematic structure and free improvisation are propelled in continual and fluid co-existence.
While Chapter One was marked by more defined set pieces, stark juxtapositions, and the epic cacophony of a sprawlingly unconventional big band, Chapter Two unfolds as a cohesive album-length piece unto itself, channeling the drama and catharsis of Gens de couleur libres into something more measured and circumscribed, playing with notions of dignity, rarefaction and restraint. The inclusion of a male operatic singer contributes significantly to the tone and tension of Mississippi Moonchile in this respect, and operates as a fascinating foil to Roberts' own voice, which alternates between splintered 'wordspeak' and deeply soulful singing. The six players are in a perpetual motion of coalescence and divergence, where melodic themes, occasional ostinato passages, and variously deployed literal voices ("There are some things I can't tell you about…") serve to rally the overriding theme of individual narratives and personal expressions as struggles with, celebrations of, and threads within collective history. The contortions of empowerment, pride, shame, suffering, eulogy, empathy, liberation and transcendence are Matana's raw material in the broadest and most specific senses; she has given this raw material another beautiful and compelling shape in the second chapter of the COIN COIN story.
Thanks for listening.
2. humility draws down blue
3. all nations
4. twelve sighed
5. spares of the world
6. secret coven
7. river ruby dues
8. confessor haste
9. amma jerusalem school
10. for this is
12. the labor of their lips
13. was the sacred day
15. woman red racked
16. thanks be you
17. humility draws down new
Running time: 00:48:32
LP is pressed on 180 gram virgin vinyl at Optimal (Germany) and comes in a heavyweight jacket with black poly-lined audiophile dust sleeve, credit insert, pull-out art poster and download code for 320 kbps MP3 copy of the album.
CD comes in a custom gatefold jacket printed on thick 24pt. paperboard with a printed CD dust sleeve.
Shoko Nagai: piano, vocals
Jason Palmer: trumpet, vocals
Jeremiah Abiah: operatic tenor vocals
Thomson Kneeland: double bass, vocals
Tomas Fujiwara: drums, vocals
All compositions by Matana Roberts (c) (p) 2013 caprustha/BMI except “river ruby dues”, “woman red racked” and “benediction.”: arrangements based on traditional American folk songs.
Excerpt of Fannie Lou Hammer's speech at the 1968 Democratic National Convention used in “was the sacred day”. Operatic vocals text arranged and conducted by M. Roberts, composed by Joseph D. Howard (b. 1873 – d. 1952).
Recorded by Radwan Moumneh at Systems II Studios, Brooklyn NY, 28-29 November 2012. Mixed by Radwan Moumneh at Thee Hotel2Tango, Montreal QC, January 2013. Mastered by Harris Newman at Greymarket, Montreal QC.
Artwork by Matana Roberts, assisted by Evan McKnight. Front cover photo by Hooks Brothers, 164 Beal Street, Memphis TN, 1939.