Saxophonist and composer Matana Roberts speaks with James Ilgenfritz about the technical and metaphysical aspects of her dynamic and highly autobiographical music, including her ongoing blood narrative project Coin Coin (documented on her blog In the Midst Of Memory as well as an upcoming record on the Canadian label Constellation, and the interactive nature of her site-specific solo work. During the many years Roberts has been busking in New York and many other cities, she has come to see the process as an interactive dialogue with architecture. Roberts also discusses her early years in Chicago, including her association with the AACM and the support from Chicago elders like Fred Anderson an contemporaries like Josh Abrams and Chad Taylor. She also discusses her ongoing self-published Zine, “Fat Ragged”, and her enthusiasm for the transformative power of youth outreach, specifically describing recent work with ICASP in Montreal and The Future of Music Coalition and Air Traffic Control in New Orleans. Roberts and host James Ilgenfritz also perform duo colorful and engaging duo improvisations.
Chicago born and bred, Matana [pronounced [mah-tah-nah] Roberts is an alto saxophonist/composer/performer who works in various mediums of improvised sound and performance, and has been active in New York since 2001. A Vanlier and Brecht Forum fellow, as well as a 2008 and 2009 nominee for an Alpert Award in the Arts, She has appeared as a collaborator on recordings and performances worldwide with her own ensembles as well as with a variety of collaborative ensembles—such groups as Sticks and Stones, Burnt Sugar, Exploding Star Orchestra, the Oliver Lake Big Band, the Julius Hemphill Sextet, Myra Melford’s Happy Whistlings, Jayne Cortez’s Fire Spitters, Merce Cunningham Dance and Savion Glover Dance. In 2008, the success of her leader debut, The Chicago project (Central Control International ), led critics to call Ms. Roberts “one to watch” (Kevin Legendre, Jazzwise) and “an eloquent, dramatic, tone warping free jazz artist right out of Ayler’s anti bop tradition.”( John Fordham, London Gaurdian) She has also recorded as a side woman on recordings with a large smattering of influential ensembles such as Godspeed You Black Emperor, TV on the Radio, Savath and Savalas, and Silver Mount Zion.
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