Troy Roberts, Stuff I Heard Review
In November of 2019, we had the pleasure of reviewing Troy Roberts album Days Like These, and it was evident Roberts was amassing a versatile discography. With the release of his 12th album Stuff I Heard, Roberts steps forward with a cinematic theme, paired with elements of his Nu-Jive and Troy Roberts Quartet. What makes this album all the more special is the introduction of multi-layering and only two musicians creating an ensemble sound. Roberts takes on the role of soprano, alto & tenor saxophones, acoustic bass, electric bass, while Jimmy Macbride wrangles the drums. Though not recorded during the pandemic like so many albums coming out now are with solo or duet recordings, this idea struck Roberts long before what would become the newer norm for recordings due to social distancing needs. It was born from a regular practice of Roberts. He explains, “My first compositional rule of thumb is to capture my ideas by singing them into my phone. Every so often, I transcribe and save them to a folder on my hard drive called ‘Stuff I Heard’ for later development. All my albums are essentially the fruits of these seeds”. The seeds as Roberts put it are in full efflorescence on his latest recording.
Positives: Roberts compositions are filled with possibilities, Macbride and Roberts explore each composition with the utmost integrity of the tune. Giving way to each other, but also giving to the idea of bringing each tune to life with possibilities, this makes for an explorative listen.
Bottom Line: The bass is a delightful discovery. Roberts tackles both electric and upright on Stuff I Heard. Known widely as a commanding saxophonist, it was great to hear Roberts tackle string instruments. His inventiveness and use of colorization are equally prevalent. The album ranges from a Venezuelan Joropo rhythm on “ Little Room,” to a modulating rhythmic figure underneath from the bass and drums on “Harry Brown.” While “Prayer of Hope” is an artful ballad that illuminates into an anthesis of orchestration, before pensively concluding with a plaintive prayer of a saxophone choir. A Roberts album would not be complete without a Nu-Jive perspective. “Rejekt,” delivers with a resounding appeal. Each track is a journey, a viewpoint, a context. Once again Roberts shows his depth of versatility and strength of ideas on Stuff I Heard. That’s the short of it!