by Icrom Bigrad
Originally from Perth, West Australia saxophonist and composer Troy Roberts continues to garner respect among his peers and the industry receiving 3 DownBeat Jazz Soloist Awards, 2 Grammy Nominations, and was the only Australian semi-finalist in the 2008 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition. Currently Roberts is a primary member of the Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts Quartet, Joey DeFrancesco’s new quartet, ‘The People’ and is currently celebrating his 8th record as a leader, Nu-Jive Perspective (Inner Circle Music).
“Fame & Four Tune” starts the album with Roberts playing a rhythmic theme that is then developed through the section by the band as each member enters with their parts. Roberts’ compositional style is a beautiful balance of written melodies that flow seamlessly into and out of improvised lines. Roberts has the ability to make this flow in a way that maintains the thematic development of the line consistent in his improvised sections. This also creates an organic compositional flow, breaking out of the standard AABA form, which is interesting, but this also breaks up the standard head from solos to head form. His compositions are like little mini-suites all unto themselves. “Fame & Four Tune” also flows through different feels and levels of intensity Add the musicality of the band and their abilities and a track like “Fame & Four Tune” is a monumental musical statement. Now, Roberts has eleven on those statements on Nu-Jive Perspective.
“Table For 5” is a relaxed 5/4 funk composition. Roberts phrasing is always creative, even in the melody of “Table For 5” he pays special attention to accents, slurs and the like, even in the written lines. That makes it obvious that Roberts has and does spend time on the details, and it shows and sounds like it! The melody is given multiple orchestrations through the ensemble and develops beautifully through the form. The counterpoint between the saxophone and guitar is of added interesting. Roberts solo starts with creativity, as the band opens the groove to allow space for Roberts to build, and build they do. As Roberts’ lines intensify in activity and range, the band matches his energy. This is an ensemble that listens! The comradery and respect are immediately evident, each player adds to the mélange of the tune.
Nu-Jive Perspective is certainly quite a pull away from Roberts last two releases on Inner Circle Music, Secret Rhymes (2015), and Tales and Tones (2017), but certainly not a new sound in the alter ego of Roberts playing style and previous Nu-Jive recordings. An artist should not be relegated to one style when releasing albums. An artist should be free to create what is on their mind musically and if the industry would conceive of it, we would most likely have more creative releasing from artists regularly, rather than being relegated to releasing what might appeal to their knowledge base of taste. I however, welcome Roberts latest incarnation of himself. There is no difference between the solid playing exhibited on the straight-ahead albums versus the modern, contemporary sound he exhibits with his group Nu-Jive. His same command, versatility and virile playing is ever present and dominating. Nu-Jive Perspective is a solid album, with inspired playing by all.