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Sticks and Stones
All Music Guide review
David R. Adler

Sticks and Stones is a collaborative trio featuring alto saxophonist Matana Roberts, bassist Josh Abrams, and drummer Chad Taylor. All have their roots in the Chicago avant-garde — Roberts with the AACM, Abrams with Town and Country, Taylor with the Chicago Underground. They each contribute three tunes to this debut disc, and also make room for inspired readings of "Lose My Number," by the revered trumpeter and jazz educator John McNeil, and "Sons of Slaves," by reggae legend Lee "Scratch" Perry. As befits edgy, spontaneous music like this, the recording is pure and unvarnished. The group's loose but purposeful interplay veers in and out of tempo, ranging from the funky, bass-driven grooves of "Equally Strong" and "Spaces" to the freebop swing of "Usetosay" to the quite abstract terrain of "Hannibul." The reggae cover features electronically modified drum sounds and just a hint of wah on the sax. Taylor's creativity comes to the fore on "Turning the Mark" and "Spicer," respectively the first and last cuts — both of which feature highly active drumming that contrasts starkly with the sparse, almost mournful moods established by alto and bass.

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