|Matana Roberts cradling her alto sax while
watching from the wings at Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2016. All Rights Reserved
Matana Roberts, Robert Mitchell, Neil Charles, Mark Sanders, Rachel Musson
(Cafe Oto, 27 October 2016 – final night of 3 night ‘Wildcard’ residency at Cafe Oto; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)
To round off a trio of nights at Cafe Oto the haunting humanity of Matana Roberts’ alto sax was complemented by the flowing, turbulent soundscapes and world class, bred-in-the-bone musicanship of Robert Mitchell (piano), Neil Charles (bass) and Mark Sanders (percussion), with the bonus of a ‘wildcard’ appearance of Rachel Musson (saxes) for the whole of the second set.
John Coltrane has unmistakably significant influence on Roberts, and yet she does more, much more than pay homage to Coltrane – or Pharaoh Sanders, or Albert Ayler for that matter. She has great strength in her own voice, her beautiful phrasing underpinned by the confidence and muscle of her delivery. The sensitivity and imaginative breadth of the musicians alongside her were the perfect foil, allowing her crafted spontaneity to shine through and hit the spot.
This was one of the very few Cafe Oto concerts where individual solos were applauded, yet to hear Robert Mitchell take off into the pianistic stratosphere somewhere in Tatum territory and then add crunchingly dramatic chords just begged a round of spontaneous appreciation. Neil Charles, likewise, subtly spanning the fretboard, leaving space where others might fear not to tread, and Mark Sanders adding layers of delightfully improbable rhythmic/melodic twists, then having a serious Ginger Baker moment couldn’t pass without gleeful recognition.
And what a delight to hear the impressive Rachel Musson on tenor and soprano saxes trading power and softly toned lyricism with Roberts. The two women took centre stage and made a mighty impact – no better way to make the case, and no wonder Roberts said that this was her ‘dream dream band’.
Acknowledging the vibrancy of the London scene and the quality and experience of her co-musicians over the three-day residency, Roberts added a special insight to make her case for the city: ‘There’s so much musical wisdom in this town.’ Wise words, indeed.