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A meeting beween two major musicans from the Montreal scene--Sam Shalabi (Shalabi Effect) and Nicolas Caloia (Ratchet Orchestra) and American saxophonist Matana Roberts (Coin Coin)--for a drumless trio uniquely balancing free and melodic styles in masterful ways.

Roberts, Matana / Sam Shalabi / Nicolas Caloia

Roberts, Matana / Sam Shalabi / Nicolas Caloia: Feldspar (Tour de Bras)

Label: Tour de Bras    
Released in: Canada    

"With her Coin Coin project Matana Roberts has become everybody's darling, from papers like the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times to jazz magazines and radio programs, even to media beyond the jazz cosmos like the Rolling Stone, SPIN or Everyone is rightfully awestruck by "Gens de Couleur Libres" and "Mississippi Moonchile" (including us).

But apart from her longtime project Matana Roberts has always been involved in smaller groups - like her trio with Josh Abrams (b) and Chad Taylor (dr), her quartet with Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), Thomson Kneeland (b) and Thomas Fujiwara (dr) or her band with Jeff Parker (g), Josh Abrams (b) and Frank Rosaly (dr) - all of them not as spectacular as Coin Coin but nevertheless absolutely interesting since Roberts concentrates more on improvisation while Coin Coin rather focuses on a compositional element.

For this album Roberts has formed a new trio with Canadian musicians Sam Shalabi (g) and Nicolas Caloia (b), both active members of Montreal's prospering scene. Their Feldspar album is named after a group of minerals, the name feldspar derives from the German words Feld (field) and Spath (a rock that does not contain any ore) - like this formation does not have any drums.

The band mainly delves into harsh avant-garde idioms, sometimes the musicians seem to be alienated from each other, as if they would confirm an old prejudice against free jazz that the musicians only play for themselves. However, Roberts' always keeps a strong element of melody present, in "Spinel" her sax lines are deeply rooted in folk blues melodies (and she does not deny Albert Ayler, Steve Lacy and Fred Anderson as main influences). In general bass and guitar provide edgy textures and colorful dots for Roberts' discreet melodies, as if the three were painting a picture, the guitar providing the ground coat, the sax being responsible for the strokes of the brush and the bass for the dots (as in "Opal").

Highlights of this album are the bookending tracks: On "Orpiment" Shalabi provides a Thurston-Moore-like guitar, Matana's warm and gentle sax creeps into the track very shyly in front of the guitar feedback and Caloia's bowed bass, she seems to be looking for a point of contact with bass and guitar. Only at the end the three instruments seem to entwine with each other, dancing madly, their limbs distorted.

The title track (the last one on this album) begins with bass and sax displaying a melancholic layout, while Shalabi's atonal guitar is playing almost against the others, as if he wanted to disturb the dialogue - but Roberts and Caloia resist and answer back. It is a heavy, escalating dispute, at the end everybody seems to be exhausted from the fight in this long aftermath."-Martin Schray, FreeJazz Blog

"Nicolas Caloia. Born Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, 1968. Residence: Montréal, Québec. Performer (double bass).

Since 1990 Nicolas Caloia has worked at creating a contemporary music generated by using accurately composed textures to channel collective improvisation. The goal is a music that erases the lines between improvised and composed, pop and avant-garde, good and bad. He hopes this music will satisfy the body, the mind and, above all, the heart. He has worked as a performer, composer, and organizer in Montréal and has toured in North America, Europe, and Asia. He has performed and recorded in a vast array of contexts with the most important members of Montréal's creative music community as well as with internationally renowned musicians like the ICP orchestra, Marshall Allen, John Butcher, Joe McPhee, Steve Lacy, William Parker, Hassan Hakmoun, Tristan Honsinger and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. His concerts and numerous recordings have been critically acclaimed both at home and abroad. Currently, the majority of his work as a composer and improviser finds a voice in: The Ratchet Orchestra - a 30-piece big band; Tilting - the Nicolas Caloia Quartet, Ring - a sextet, Spell - a 10-piece marching band, Trephining - a quintet, Mercury - a duet Lori Freedman as well in solo performances."

-ActuelleCD (

"Sam Shalabi is a central node in Montréal's free improv scene. One cannot count the many projects he is a part of. He is best known as a founding member of Shalabi Effect, who have recorded 2 albums on Alien8 Recordings which have earned the band extremely good response from critics and music enthusiasts alike. Apart from Shalabi Effect, he is also part of a number of bands, among which Detention, Molasses, Balai Mécanique, Po, 'Gypt Gore, and a trio with David Kristian and Alexandre St-Onge. He is also known for three solo albums, Luteness (Squint Fucker Press, deleted), On Haschisch (Alien8), and of course Osama, his investigation of arabophobia in a "post-9-11 world". His style ranges from freeform psychedelic rock to the most oddball abstract performance. Although mostly known as a guitarist, the highly versatile Shalabi also performs on oud and a variety of other instruments." (

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Trio Recordings
Trio Recordings

Get additional information at Free Jazz Blog

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Product Information:

Label: Tour de Bras
Catalog ID: TDB9008cd
Squidco Product Code: 18864

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2014
Country: Canada
Packaging: Cardboard foldover
Recorded in Montreal, Canada, on December 8th, 2011 by Thierry Amar.


Matana Roberts-alto saxophone

Nicolas Caloia-contrabass

Sam Shalabi-guitar

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Track Listing:

1. Orpiment 8:01

2. Spinel 5:30

3. Galena 8:25

4. Anatase 5:14

5. Opal 7:22

6. Cinnabar 4:54

7. Feldspar 7:36