Troy Roberts gets around. After winning several awards and two Grammy nominations, along with nearly 50 recordings as a side man, Troy has released his 12th album as a leader entitled Stuff I Heard from Toy Robot Music. Having played regularly with Joey DeFrancesco, Jeff "Tain" Watts and Kut Elling, Troy has also performed and recorded with his own groups, The Troy Roberts Quartet and NU-JIVE.
Now Troy has released an album with a new approach to the material and to the format. Troy is paired with drummer Jim Macbride who has recorded with the likes of Roxy Coss, Nick Finzer, Alex Wintz and Chris Ziemba. In other words, you see Jimmy Macbride on an album and you can’t wait to crank it up.
With this pair, you got the makin’s! Troy handles not only the soprano, alto and tenor saxes, he also takes on electric and acoustic bass duties. And delivers on all of them. Troy also composed and arranged all the tracks on the album. Underachiever.
Troy kicks it all of with Little Room. Not only does Troy reveal his saxophone virtuosity on all saxes concerned but he turns in some brilliant bass work as Jimmy Macbride shows why he is everyone’s go-to guy on the kit. The movement of the tune is fascinating and full of fun.
Harry Brown reminds me of the Michael Caine vigilante action-thriller of the same name. Troy’s excellent Bop is brilliant in tone and punctuation. His alto bits are so fine. Pay attention to Jimmy’s cool drumming.
Lifeline is a cool-as-you-can-get composition with Near Eastern themed melodic lines and rhythms. Macbride’s passages are beautifully toned and sit so distinctively with Troy’s runs and imaginative motifs. Troy explores some wide-ranging intonations and it pays off so well.
Prayer of Hope shifts to a more meditative sound with Troy overlaying all three saxes in extraordinarily fine lines over sax arpeggios. It is almost liturgical in Troy’s composition. You can almost hear a pipe organ in the higher registers. Beautiful.
Rejekt swings hard and Troy’s tenor sax punctuations are so fine beneath the alto runs. Macbride plays amazing rhythms to frame the melody and improvs. Troy is tough on the electric bass. The two of them sound like a big band. This is one exciting piece of music with heavy funk and Troy and Jimmy work it hotly. Couldn’t get enough of this one.
Hightail is Troy at his hottest on the album. His tenor solo is a monster and Jimmy is in overdrive with him. The ostinato pedal adds a wider dimension to an already brilliant tune. There is nothing weak about this track or, indeed, the whole album but, as my uncle used to say, “This mother smokes!”
Aeonian gives the image or sense of its title—lasting for an indescribably long period of time. And I mean that in a good way. It comes across as a ballad of long reflection and reminiscence. The alto lead is meditative and deliciously melancholy. The soprano takeover is sweet and sad.
Solar Panels is a nod-and-a-wink to Miles Davis’ Solar. It is an upbeat, bouncy number with the soprano taking charge from the start. Jimmy is tight with the Troy swing and the results are fantastic as Troy works the acoustic bass. The two just may be a their tightest on this track. Hot stuff.
The Comedian is the closer on the album. It is not the light-hearted foray you might expect. It is more like Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci or might even put you in mind of Charlie Chaplin whose comedies always had a touch of melancholy to them. The writing is exemplary and the delivery from both Troy and Jimmy is moving and beautiful. The lilt of the soprano and tenor saxes is like the slow breathing the one who watches the world with sadness. Beautiful.
Stuff I Heard is a fascinating, imaginative album that is written with depth and beauty and performed with dedication and emotion. Troy Roberts and Jimmy Macbride deliver a flawless performance of exquisite music.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl
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