Matana Roberts: Unafraid and Exploratory

Perhaps it’s that her interviewer is fellow saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, but New York-based composer/alto saxophonist Matana Roberts goes into much greater detail than usual about her background and ideas in this dialogue found on Shaw’s blog pages. A Chicago native from a family obsessed with music, Roberts was playing both so-called classical clarinet and Jazz saxophone by the time she was in high school. Soon afterwards she expended her interests in a mixture of players such as Cannonball Adderley, Earth Wind and Fire, Bob Dylan, and Donna Summer even wider to include a variety of other sounds such as those from composers like Morton Feldman, John Zorn and John Cage, saxophonists like David Boykin, Fred Anderson and Von Freeman, singers like Jeanne Lee, and hip hoppers like Nas and  A Tribe Called Quest, These musical influences, plus the writings of Roxane Gay and Jane Jacobs, her quest to experience the natural world, plus her involvement in yoga, movement and swimming, encouraged her to conceive of her Coin Coin project. This is envisioned as a 12-part recorded examination of Black American history, parts of which she performs solo. Right now her other major ambition is to play with older musicians in order to understand some of their received wisdom