Words About Music
Matana Roberts “Coin Coin Chapter Two: Mississippi Moonchile”
Back in 2011, avant-garde jazz saxophone player Matana Roberts, who’d been best known for recording with Godspeed You! Black Emperor, released the first chapter in what would be a twelve-part series chronicling her family’s history. It was called “Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens De Couleur Libres,” an incredible release that used the 19th century slave trade as some sort of symbol or metaphor, or perhaps just a history lesson set to surprisingly melodic free jazz. This time around Matana brings her chronicle to what appears to be the days of civil rights. And instead of the somewhat harsher vocals used on the last album, this time she brings in an opera singer to sing for the majority of the album, with Matana providing her usual fast-paced blend of poetry, slave songs, history, and post-modern jazz.
When it comes to free jazz, “Coin Coin Chapter Two” is nowhere near as chaotic as Little Women or Kaoru Abe. It’s still just as disjointed and, well, free. While it never does reach any sort of musical climax where all out insanity is happening, it’s still a very worthwhile expedition, and it’s surprisingly fun to listen to, even when Matana is speaking about a woman in jail who was beaten just for not saying “Yes, sir.” This album even manages to be quite pretty at times.
One immediately noticeable aspect of “Coin Coin Chapter Two” is the song lengths. While “Chapter One” had 8 songs that were all fairly long, “Chapter Two” has 18 songs that are all fairly short, ranging from 8 seconds to 4 minutes and 25 seconds. The entire album flows like one composition. If you were to listen to this without looking at the screen then you would never notice when one song ends and another one begins. There are obvious changes in the movements, of course, but those changes don’t really reflect the song changes.
While “Coin Coin Chapter Two” is somewhat similar to “Chapter One,” Matana is still highly capable of telling an extremely compelling story through the use of changes in instrumental mood, styles of singing (which range from operative male vocals to scatting to fast talking), and just sounds in general. It’s 48 minutes long, incredibly interesting, and there’s rarely a single bad moment on the album. If you’re looking for a free jazz album that is more relaxing than it is hellish than definitely give Matana’s ongoing “Coin Coin” series a listen, because I can definitely see her going all the way to Chapter Twelve if she continues to be this good.
SCORE – 9.3
FAVORITE TRACKS – Invocation, Twelve Sighed, Spares Of The World, River Ruby Dues, Amma Jerusalem School, Responsory, Was The Sacred Day, Lesson, Woman Red Racked, Thanks Be You, Benediction