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Matana Roberts – Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens De Couleur Libres

Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens De Couleur Libres was the first installment of an ongoing musical project that would explore the history and legacy of Black Americans. Drawing on a diverse range of musical traditions, including jazz, gospel, folk, and experimental music, American composer and saxophonist Matana Roberts created a powerful and deeply personal work that spoke to the struggles and triumphs of her ancestors.

Matana Roberts Coin Coin Chapter One Gens De Couleur Libres

Matana Roberts

Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens De Couleur Libres

Jazz has a rich history of addressing existential questions, social and political issues, and allowing musicians to express themselves in ways that are emotionally charged and deeply moving.

The emotional impact of jazz music varies depending on the listener’s personal experiences, cultural background, and preferences. However, listeners often find common ground over time. For example, John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme has become a cornerstone of the genre due to its music being so particular and beautiful that it allows us to grasp transcendence.

Another album that deserves similar recognition is Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens De Couleur Libres. Its music challenges our humanity in ways that no other jazz album has done before. With each play, it is impossible not to be moved by the beauty of the music, the accuracy of the words, the pain expressed, the absurdity revealed, and the cruelty denounced.

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”
–Victor Hugo

Jazz rarely brings tears to one’s eyes, but here is an exception. Its music and vocals express the most dramatic human emotions ever heard on a jazz album. It reminds us of what should have never been, what should no longer exist, and that humanity can only be one.

So if one of humanity’s tragedies is its inability to recognize itself and to understand that the other is oneself, then Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens De Couleur Libres brings this tragedy to life deep within us, making it–through illumination more than knowledge–accessible essentially.

This music is indispensable; listen and re-listen to it.

Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens De Couleur Libres

Track listing

  1. “Rise” (7:28)
  2. “Pov Piti” (7:41)
  3. “Song For Eulalie” (8:26)
  4. “Kersaia” (7:33)
  5. “Libation for Mr. Brown: Bid ‘Em In…” (9:48)
  6. “Lulla/Bye” (5:54)
  7. “I Am” (10:06)
  8. “How Much Would You Cost?” (4:19)


Matana Roberts: reeds, voice; Gitanjali Jain: voice; David Ryshpan: piano, organ; Nicolas Caloia: cello; Ellwood Epps: trumpet; Brian Lipson: bass trumpet; Fred Bazil: tenor sax; Jason Sharp: baritone sax; Hraïr Hratchian: doudouk; Marie Davidson, Josh Zubot: violin; Lisa Gamble: musical saw; Thierry Amar, Jonah Fortune: bass; David Payant: drums, vibes; Xarah Dion: prepared guitar.

Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens De Couleur Libres was recorded in front of a live audience at the Hotel2Tango studio in Montreal, on July 9, 2010, and it was released on May 10, 2011, on Constellation Records, and is part of the Best Jazz Albums of 2011.

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