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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

CD Review: Troy Roberts - Stuff I Heard

Troy Roberts (soprano/alto/tenor sax/ double bass/ electric bass); Jimmy Macbride (drums)
(Review by Chris K)

The twelfth release from this multi-instrumentalist and composer as a leader. Roberts was new to me, my first impressions were of a modern “American” sound (he is a US based Australian) – muscular but smooth.

I’ll own up to a certain suspicion of the undoubtedly gifted sax player taking on bass duties, with multi-tracking of (sometimes all three) sax voices.  In pre-Covid days, why multi-track one player when you can have a real live band?!  I did find the bass on the first track, Little Room, a bit plodding, but the rest of the album proves him a fluent and versatile bass player too!  I have warmed to the album on repeated listening, as any feel lost in the studio construction is compensated by the clever composition and arrangement, and the sparkle put back in by the excellent and agile drumming of Macbride,  a young NYC based sideman deluxe.    

The album title alludes to Roberts’ working routine of writing down “stuff he heard” in his head wherever he might be, and results here in a real variety of styles, moods and arrangements.

The substantial,  in length and content,  Harry Brown (after Michael Caine, apparently) sees Roberts lay down a long acoustic bass intro, with a glorious whooshing entry on drums (worth replaying!) before he stretches out with some cool tenor over walking bass.  Further fantastic sax soloing, with expressive bends and stretches (vibes of Brecker) to be heard in Lifeline.   
     
Prayer of Hope has a fresh and genuinely uplifting major key feel, with classical overtones in a peaceful interlude, before turning up the heat for Rejekt, an uncompromising funky frolic, driven by showy electric bass with an almost big-band sound achieved by tight multiple sax voices.

Hightail is a favourite, with insistent electric bass and skittering drums, unfolding into late Weather Report repeated and melodic sax phrases.  Aeonian is slower, with polyphonic interweaving sax lines over ponderous acoustic bass, with some Garbarek style emotion emerging through the doom before fading away. Solar Panels is also very strong, with acoustic bass and sax doubling leading into angular soprano rambling, with outstanding freely blowing drums,    reminiscent of some of Julian Costello’s recent work.

Overall,  a rich showcase of Roberts' composition and playing, with some staggering blowing over clever and propulsive drums. While he can clearly write, play with great power and subtlety, and produce, I’m left a little puzzled from this impressive and clever smorgasbord as to who the real Troy Roberts is?
Chris Kilsby

Released April 10, 2020. Recorded NYC January 2019

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