Conceptual jazz composer and saxophonist Matana Roberts performs elements of her lauded COIN COIN series live at Big Ears festival.
Saxophonist, clarinetist, composer, bandleader, sound experimentalist and multimedia practitioner Matana Roberts isn’t the sort of artist whose accomplishments fit neatly into any particular box. Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, she took up music as a child, and was fully immersed in the city’s music and arts scenes during her teenage years. In the early 2000s, she formed a trio called Sticks & Stones, which ultimately released two albums, but it was her efforts following a move to New York City in 2002 that thrust Roberts into the spotlight. While fronting and participating in a number of different projects, she was also enlisted to collaborate with artists like TV on the Radio, Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mt. Zion. As as solo artist, her debut album The Chicago Project surfaced in 2007 and made a few waves, but it’s Roberts’ Coin Coin series, which began in 2011, that has truly prompted widespread acclaim. Conceptualized as a 12-volume series, Coin Coin uses avant-garde jazz as a base to explore themes of history, memory and ancestry. Experimental, esoteric and politically conscious, Roberts’ work is both thought-provoking and sonically compelling, making it easy to understand why she’s been hailed as a bold voice in the jazz world and beyond.