Monday, September 13, 2010

Vijay Iyer / Matana Roberts Live

Live At Le Possion Rouge NYC 10.9.2010
Vijay Iyer (piano)
Matana Roberts (sax)
(photos courtesy: me from my crappy mobile phone (flash off))

A night of discovery and solo bliss. It was a cool Friday night in New York City and the new space for the increasingly popular Le Possion Rouge was full and buzzing. The rare solo appearance of now New York icon, Vijay Iyer is definitely something to see.

I went with a friend who is a big fan. But I didn't really own any of Iyer's albums. I have material that he plays on so I am familiar with how good a player he is. I really hadn't thought about picking up one of his records before because I wasn't convinced of his strength. But tonight would be different.

I came into this gig with a completely closed minded. I was expecting a good show and I knew I would be entertained but I didn't think I would be blown away. Not too mention blown away twice.

You see, this was actually two performances. Matana Roberts, for whom I didn't know much about either until I went back home and realised I owned a number Brunt Sugar albums in which she performances on. In my head I realized, "that's why I loved that album so much." So this night belong to two fascinating performers with similar spiritual directions in music with subtlety different delivers.

Vijay Iyer currently promoting his new release, Solo (Act Music) was impressive with a brisk and quick deliver of mood and melody. There is a certain element of Debussey, Haydn and Satie in his work. While Thelonious Monk and Andrew Hill are definitely influences Iyer's own compositions are what really shined for me on Friday night.

Two original pieces "Patterns" and "Abundance" (currently unrecorded for the studio apparently) showed large scale creativity a beauty as the piece were rolling studies in Indian culture and modal structures. Vijay Iyer's ability to inject some muscular strength into well used standards was also something I didn't expect. His interpretations of "Darn That Dream," Monk's "Epistrophy" and now jazz staple Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" feature a distinctiveness and daring that very few musicians would be able to pull off. These standards are feature on Solo along with a "Patterns" and for this once bird-sitter, I am now venturing to investigate more Vijay Iyer as I am now totally convinced.

The other revelation Friday night was that of veteran saxophonist Matana Roberts. Matana Roberts built her reputation in the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) and has worked with a host innovative musicians including Guillermo E. Brown, Mary Halvorson, TV On The Radio and the late Fred Anderson for whom she credits a great deal of influence.

And you could sense the influence on this night as the ideas and energy she projected throughout the evening of this solo saxophone performance. Roberts who has done a lot of session and live work with others (with a small handful of releases under her own leadership) but that appears to be changing in the next few months with two albums done in the pipeline.

Friday night was a strong, bold performance with shades of Anderson, Rivers, Vandermark and Braxton all coming to my attention as I witnessed Matana move confidently up and done the scales. Her work has spacious, dark, melodic bluesy tones that show a fresh voice with diverse ideas. "Rue Vanhorne Parc" is a piece she says was created while on one of her journeys to recorded in abandoned buildings. It is a wonderful piece that is moves quietly like a journey through a cornfield with nothing but the birds and clear sky above.

Mr. Roberts can also let loose in caustic fashion that shows she has learned the balance and beauty that they aforementioned saxophonists have all mastered. Matana Roberts is currently working on a multi-tiered piece entitled Coin Coin which explores her cultrual and spiritual heritage in a similar vein that John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Alice Coltrane and later poets Nikki Giovanni and Wanda Robinson and others have delve into with rich and extraordinary results.

The most recent album, The Chicago Project (Central Control Records) is a wonderful example of her compositional skill as well phenomenal playing. Featuring an awesome track entitled "South By West," "Exchange" and the lovely improvised pieces "Birdhouse"Worth seeking out.

For those looking for someone with some fresh ideas and bound to exploded in prominence sooner than we think--Matana Roberts is definitely the real deal folks. Get on board this train now. I glad I did--even if it was by accident.

Friday night was a great night for music and discovery. And that's why we love jazz baby...

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