Jazz trio Sticks and Stones formed years ago when drummer Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground, Sam Prekop Band, Active Ingredients), bassist Josh Abrams (Town and Country, Sam Prekop Band, David Boykin Expanse, Nicole Mitchell Black Earth Ensemble, The Roots) and alto saxophonist Matana Roberts met each other at a performance space in Chicago. Roberts and Abrams had played extensively at open jam sessions at Fred Anderson's legendary Chicago club, The Velvet Lounge. The three immensely enjoyed playing together, and thanks to Fred Anderson soon became the house band at the Sunday night Velvet Lounge sessions. It took nearly four years of playing together before they adopted the name "Sticks and Stones," (the name of a favorite song of Chad Taylor), and an even longer time before the released their first album, 2002's Sticks and Stones (on Chicago's 482 Music).
Their second and newest release, Shed Grace, is their first on Thrill Jockey. It was recorded at Semaphore Studios with Ken B. Brown (Directions in Music, Tortoise, Pullman). The album was recorded in two February sessions following their first ever US tour (February of 2003), and a third and final session in October. It was recorded live to tape using no edits or overdubs, preserving all of the spontaneous energy and raw excitement of their live shows. Shed Grace is largely original compositions (songwriting split equally among the three). The eclectic selection of covers includes songs by Fela Kuti, Thelonious Monk, and Billy Strayhorn.
Bass player Abrams and Drummer Taylor are well established and prolific jazz musicians, both of whom have recently released albums on Delmark Records. Abrams' album, Cipher, has been met with rave reviews and is his first since last year's Busride Interview. Taylor's group, active ingredients, recently released their debut, Titration.
Saxophone player Matana is a truly exciting and revelatory presence on Shed Grace. Roberts (who now lives in New York), an associate member of Chicago's AACM, and though there are many woman involved in the jazz world, Matana is one of the few gaining recognition. Perhaps this is because she has played with such luminaries as as Steve Lacy, Eugene Chadbourne, Henry Grimes, Anthony Braxton, Ravi Coltrane, Don Byron, Fred Anderson, Nicole Mitchell, Angelica Sanchez, Peter Brotzman, Jeff Parker, Butch Morris, Ras Moshe, Matt Lavelle, Robert Barry, Joe Maneri, Tony Malaby, Daniel Givens, Ralph Alessi, Vijay Iyer, David Boykin, and Rob Mazurek, among many others. Matana is currently working on a recording of her solo compositions, a large ensemble project to premier in New York in October 2005, and is collaborating with writer/ director/poet Reg E. Gaines and choreographer/actor/dancer Savion Glover on a tribute project for saxophonists John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy. She is also a member of the New York based Afro/funk/punk/rock/jazz chamber ensemble Burnt Sugar. Roberts spends her days busking in the New York City subways (and writes about it in her zine, WORDS). Much like a mentor of hers, Fred Anderson, she finds a pristine balance between being delicately melodic and powerfully headstrong, It is unusual to find someone so young with such a mature ear, and melodic sense. Matana Roberts stands out as an exuberating new face, and together with Abrams and Taylor, Shed Grace is their strongest statement yet.