Shed Grace

Sticks and Stones

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Shed Grace Review

by Sean Westergaard

Shed Grace follows essentially the same blueprint as their debut album: a couple tunes each from group members Matana Roberts, Chad Taylor, and Josh Abrams, along with a few nicely chosen covers. The band can (and does) play everything from jaunty grooves to spacey free jazz rhythms, yet Matana Roberts always keeps a strong element of melody present. Josh Abrams really acts as the glue on this recording, sometimes supporting Taylor (who is all over the place), sometimes entering into more of a dialogue with Roberts, but always keeping things solidly anchored. The tunes are played very economically, with only two cuts lasting more than five-and-a-half minutes: "The Refusal" (where Roberts switches to clarinet) and a great version of Billy Strayhorn's "Isfahan." They also manage the difficult task of distilling the music of Fela Kuti's twenty-plus member band down to a trio format on "Colonial Mentality." The original compositions are equally well done, with each member making a strong contribution. This is a democratic band to be sure, but it is Matana Roberts' clear, pure tone on alto and clarinet, and unshakeable lyricism, that really stand out. With the recent passing of some of the AACM's old guard, it's good to see that the organization has some very talented young members to keep the flame lit. Well done.

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