Matana Roberts' COIN COIN: Live In Concert : A Blog Supreme For the alto saxophonist, music helps tell the complicated story of her family. She presented a project inspired by genealogical research at the Jazz Gallery as part of the CareFusion Jazz Festival New York. Hear the performance.
NPR logo Matana Roberts' COIN COIN: Live In Concert

Matana Roberts' COIN COIN: Live In Concert

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For saxophonist Matana Roberts, making music feels like family — literally. Her ongoing project COIN COIN is inspired by her intense genealogical research, centered loosely on the distant Louisiana relative Marie Therese Metoyer, a.k.a. "Coincoin." Among other things, Coincoin was variously a slave, a "free person of color" and a slave owner herself. Roberts' COIN COIN compositions reflect this tangled historical web, blending different strains of music with theatrical performance.

NPR Music and WBGO presented Matana Roberts and her ensemble, performing Chapter Two of COIN COIN, titled "Mississippi Moonchile," in a live webcast Jun. 24, 2010. In one continuous performance, the group took on many different styles in Southern music, transitioning between down-home swing, exploratory free improvisation and everything in between. There were words too: Roberts delivered spoken word prose, cued the full-voiced singer Jeremiah, and even led a soothing a cappella call-and-response section. The concert was part of the CareFusion Jazz Festival New York, and was held at the Jazz Gallery, the intimate downtown Manhattan venue known for presenting up-and-coming artists.

Born and raised in Chicago, Roberts considers two local tenor saxophonists, free-blowing Fred Anderson and hard-bop stalwart Von Freeman, her mentors. That fact speaks to the many musical communities she traverses, from free-improvising ensembles to rock bands. Under her own name, she maintains several different groups: Some are conceptual in frame, like COIN COIN; others approach forward-thinking jazz in and of itself.

On the very day of the performance, she heard that Anderson had died; a few days earlier, her mother passed on. Channeling her emotions, Roberts dedicated the performance to both people.

Matana Roberts Interview (with Josh Jackson, WBGO)

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  • Matana Roberts, alto saxophone
  • Shane Endsley, trumpet
  • Shoko Nagai, piano
  • Hill Greene, bass
  • Tomas Fujiwara, drums
  • Jeremiah, voice

Set List:

  • COIN COIN Ch. 2: "Mississippi Moonchile"

This concert was produced and hosted by Josh Jackson, and recorded by David Tallacksen, with help from Michael Downes. All are from WBGO.