Troy Roberts, Stuff I Heard Review
by Sylvannia Garuch
Saxophonist Troy Roberts has been quickly garnering fans across the globe with his robust and fiery style. His versatility is a cornerstone trait of his playing. Many do not know that Roberts is also a bassist and has a high affinity for the instrument. With the release of Stuff I Heard his 12th album as a leader Roberts offers up a cinematic vibe harkening to his 2009 release, The XenDen Suite. The album showcases Roberts’ original compositions, which is not unusual as Roberts has certainly showcased his agility as a writer on past albums. On this recording, Roberts performs on multiple soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones, as well as acoustic and electric basses. He joined by longtime live performance compeer Jimmy MacBride on drums.
Roberts tours non-stop, or at least until the ravaging effects of COVID, but at least until all venues are open again, one can enjoy his continued creative momentum in his discography. Stuff I Heard is a collection Roberts 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 fruit is bore on the opening track, “Little Room.” The counterpoint between the bass and saxophone is instantly noticeable and flows with musicality and clarity. The bridge brings in lush saxophone voicings for backgrounds as Roberts’ waltz composition unfolds. MacBride’s drumming is totally in synch with Roberts. The two build the saxophone solo to an impressive climax. Roberts’ skill on the electric bass is evident during his excellent solo. The opening track establishes that Stuff I Heard is going to be a deep listen and Roberts’ skill as a composer, multi-instrumentalist, and music visionary is immense.
“Hightail” is an intricate swing composition that is filled with the language of modern jazz. The ostinato development in the song is of interest, as is Roberts’ acoustic bass playing and musical soprano saxophone command. MacBride’s solo is a flurry of rhythmic patterns that are punctuated by well-placed background figures. This is an energetic track that displays why Roberts is such an in-demand musician. The chemistry between MacBride and Roberts is one of deep listening and in sync rhythmic exploration.
Stuff I Heard is a highly original album that has Roberts’ energy and ample sense of adventure throughout the beautiful compositions. The nine tracks are a musical journey infused with a cultivated sonic perspective based on an inventive junction of the post-bop, funk, and modern jazz worlds. With anything Roberts is involved with, the creative possibilities seem endless, and Stuff I Heard is another exemplary masterwork of rhythmic tapestries, hip grooves, and blistering solos.