on 18 November 2013
The release of the second volume of Matana Roberts' Coin Coin Project marks it out as set to be one of the most profound musical meditations on the African American experience certainly in this century and maybe before. The music on the second volume is played by a smaller group and is correspondingly more open and fluid - the musical collages of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and the techniques rooted in the AACM clearly provides the framework for the music but the inclusion of folk, gospel and blues themes and songs provide rhythmic dynamism and emotional focal points. Roberts' alto is perhaps more diffident than on other recordings but is a mature voice, Jason palmer's trumpet reminds me of a breathier Lester Bowie while the rhythm section of Thomas Fujiwara on drums and Thomson Kneeland on bass is fluid and dynamic, funky and swinging even when the music is at its freest. Shoko Nagai's piano adds beautiful colour and texture to the ensemble and perhaps provides the link to the most disconcerting element of the ensemble - at least to jazz ears - the operatic tenor of Jeremiah Abiah. From what I can gather at this early stage he seems to be singing hymns or religious texts. In the context of the exploration of Roberts' roots and heritage it makes perfect sense. I love Roberts singing voice and on this volume an accapella version of Benediction delivers the same emotional kick as 'Bid Em In' did on the first volume - if you are not moved by them then you surely have no soul.
The inclusion of the tenor voice also made me think that, altho Chicago is clearly the model for this music, it also bears some similarity in feel to the music of Charles Ives, particularly his music for smaller ensembles such as 3 Places in New England. Roberts isn't flattered by the comparison - in my view she is one of the most powerful and interesting voices on the American music scene regardless of style or genre.