Sticks And Stones Shed Grace

Shed Grace is not just another project for Sticks and Stones — they’ve spent years defining their approach as a collective. Each musician has an equal voice in the ensemble, which veers towards freedom while deferring to tradition. Alto saxophonist Matana Roberts, an associate member of the avant-garde AACM collective, first performed with bassist Josh Abrams and drummer Chad Taylor at Fred Anderson’s Velvet Lounge where the trio became the Sunday night house band. As leaders of other ensembles both Abrams (Cipher) and Taylor (Active Ingredients’ Titration) have put out superb sets on Delmark Records during the past year while Roberts has been busy working in various ensembles including a dance/music tribute to Coltrane and Dolphy. All three musicians contributed new material to the ten-track Shed Grace, which also includes three illuminating covers — Thelonious Monk’s "Skippy,” Fela Kuti’s "Colonial Mentality” and Billy Strayhorn’s "Isfahan.” While the trio remain mostly inside the jazz tradition they bring in other frames of reference at every opportunity — their reworking of Fela’s tune as chamber jazz is a tour de force. (Thrill Jockey)