Sabír Mateen

Sabír Mateen is one of the most important and well-respected musicians working within today’s avant-garde and experimental music scene. He is a mainstay in the downtown New York musicians’ community and has had a shaping influence on its evolving character. Mateen is known for the deep sense of spirituality that informs both his art and his life. Mateen plays both tenor and alto saxophone, Bb clarinet, alto clarinet, flute and works as a composer.

Mateen has been a musician for most of his life and has been through a number of musical transformations. He started out playing rhythm and blues in the early ‘70s, which led him to the tenor saxophone chair of the Horace Tapscott Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra. From there, he has performed with and/or currently performs with Cecil Taylor, Sunny Murray, William Parker, Alan Silva, Butch & Wilber Morris, Raphe Malik, Steve Swell, Mark Whitecage, Roy Campbell, Daniel Carter, Matthew Shipp, Marc Edwards, Jemeel Moondoc, William Hooker, Henry Grimes, Rashid Bakr, Kali Fasteau and numerous others. He also is a member of the cooperative band TEST. Sabír also performs collectively with, Little Huey’s Creative Music Orchestra, Earth People, the Downtown Horns.

Prophecies Come to Pass, a live recording of Sabir Mateen’s compositions by his band, The Shapes, Textures and Sound Ensemble, has been released on 577 Records.

The debut release
from this well respected group acknowledges and expands on the rich legacy of New York City’s jazz heritage. It was recorded live at Zebulon, then edited by Mateen and Steve Swell and mastered under Mateen’s direction. The CD is a breathtaking combination of the raw energy fueled sound of a live performance and top quality mastered sound.

The musicians that comprise The Shapes, Textures and Sound Ensemble are among the most renowned free jazz players in the world. They include, Sabir Mateen and Matthew Heyner, both famous for playing guerilla subway concerts with the band TEST; Steve Swell and Matt Lavelle of William Parker’s Little Huey Creative Orchestra; and Michael T.A. Thompson who has worked extensively with trumpet player Roy Campbell Jr.

The cohesive depth of this group of master musicians allows each of the players’ solos to shine throughout the disc. On the first track “Sekasso Blues” the three horns take the music to new levels of intensity and depth with blazing lines. On “Prophecies Come to Pass,” the track from which the album derives its name, the ensemble creates such a full sound that it resembles more of a symphonic orchestra than a jazz quintet.

Prophecies Come to Pass is dedicated to the spirit of Raphe Malik, the renowned trumpet player who played with the band at one time.



Sabir Mateen: Tenor and Alto Saxophones, Flute, Bb and Alto Clarinets, Matt Lavelle: Trumpet, Pocket Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Cornet, Steve Swell: Trombone, Matthew Heyner: Bass, Michael T.A. Thompson: Drums and Percussion

All music by Sabir Mateen. Recorded at Zebulon, Brooklyn, New York. Date: September 22nd 2005. Release: June 2006. Total CD time 72:41. Photograph: Federico Ughi

Prophecies Come to Pass is the debut recording of Sabir Mateen’s compositions by his group The Shapes, Textures, and Sound Ensemble. Recorded live in Brooklyn in September 2005, the CD was edited by Mateen and Swell and mastered under Mateen’s direction. It’s dedicated to the late great Raphe Malik, who at one time played with the group.

The ensemble is composed of an impressive roster of creative musicians: Mateen on saxes, flute, and clarinets; Matt Lavelle on trumpet, flugelhorn and cornet; Steve Swell on trombone; Matthew Heyner on bass; and Michael T.A. Thompson on drums and percussion. With musicians this strong, you simply can’t go wrong: they have decades of experience under their belts, and they’re guided by the venerable Mateen, one of the modern masters of creative music.

The highlights include “Sekasso Blues,” a wonderful mix of classic blues imbued with the group’s completely modern sensibility. The front line of Mateen, Lavelle and Swell is red-hot here, and the song is a delight of old and new structures playing together freely. “The Beauty Within” is a treat for the ears: Mateen plays strong and lovely flute, and there’s a great duet between Heyner and Thompson. “Prophecies Come to Pass,” an eighteen-minute epic poem, allows all the musicians to shine as they explore the point of breakdown/breakthrough. The horns are majestic and powerful, often reaching spine-tingling heights, and there are more Heyner and Thompson duets.

What makes this music so compelling is that the musicians are not afraid to explore primal depths of sound and energy. Their commitment and passion is inspiring—no one in this group is living a life of quiet desperation. The music points to life lived fully, with all its questions, struggles and heights. Florence Wetzel

Philadelphia native and Sam Rivers disciple Sabir Mateen is very active on the downtown jazz scene playing tenor saxophone, flute and clarinet in a number of bands. Here he is joined by Matt Lavelle on trumpets; Steve Swell on trombone; Matthew Heyner on bass and Michael Thompson on drums. Although the music is dedicated to the late trumpet master Raphe Malik, it is the spirit of Albert Ayler and the raggedly beautiful music made by the bands he led that permeates this live recording.

“Sekasso Blues” leads things off with bowed bass and drums before the horns kick in with a funky fanfare. Mateen then takes the lead with an inquisitive and probing solo. The trumpet chimes in urging a faster pace using bursts of energy before moving on to an extended solo backed by raw drumming. There is an open, well paced drum solo before the group lurches back into a feisty reprise of the original theme, and then a raucous free improv tag ending.

“The Beauty Within” has a yearning theme featuring bowed bass and drums. Mateen’s flute enters bashfully with a lilting solo before moving into “Everyone’s Got Something To Say” which picks up the pace with some intense collective free improvisation. Lavelle breaks free to solo on trumpet and then Sabir re-emerges on clarinet to lead the group into the title track “Prophecies Come to Pass” the third and final part of this epic medley which opens with some spaceous interplay. A fast walking bass solo leads the group and everybody raises the cacophony to a Ayler-like spiritual ecstasy before trumpet and drums depart into a forceful private conversation. “Sentimentally” slows things down considerably as the title might indicate. Sabir plays some lonesome and bluesy tenor with an occasional screech into the upper regions.

Then “Children Of The Creator” ends the disc on a very high note. Beginning with a ragged theme reminiscent of the Ayler bands from their wonderfully exciting Greenwich Village recordings, the theme gives way to an intense speaking-in-tongues improvisation which provides the most direct link to the Ayler legacy. This is a very good example of the type of raw creative jazz that is being played in downtown New York on a nightly basis. While it doesn’t get the same amount of attention as the mainstream of jazz, it is a vital and vibrant part of the larger music scene. Jazz & Blues Music Reviews, Tim Niland

I have found it to be a mistake, in many cases, to begin an improvised gig white hot. Same goes for a record, and whether I’m listening or performing, I find such intensity difficult to maintain after the initial burst. All the performers on this disc, and 577, are to be commended for doing just that, making this disc one of the strongest in the young label’s catalog.

The band is burning! They come out swinging, as do many fire-breathing post-Ayler aggregates, but from the very beginning, the playing is suffused with a kind of expectancy. The audience is very audibly feeling it, evidenced by some “Yeah!”s as bassist Matthew Heyner and drummer Michael T.A. Thompson kick in to a raunchy gospel-tinged swinging groove that simply grabbed me by the neck. The energy intensifies from that point, as “Sekasso Blues” tub-thumps its secularly evangelistic message.

I’ve known Mateen, Matt Lavelle and Steve Swell to be great players in other contexts, but the chemistry in evidence here takes things to another level. Only listen to the textured beginning, invoking Ascension, of the title track. Mateen, now on clarinet, trades beautifully poetic phrases with Swell’s trombone and Lavelle’s sweetly authoritative trumpet. The music exists in and out of time, historically and rhythmically, as the 18-minute epic alternately evokes ice and heat, making beautiful use of silence along the way. I only wish Mateen had been more closely miked on this one!

It would be impossible to document the styles of soloing on offer here, as each player is clearly extremely well grounded in this music. I’m not even sure if the music was culled from several performances or just one, but this disc works so well as a whole that such considerations lose importance. The recording is a bit rough around the edges, but that actually adds to the excitement, bringing small-venue intimacy to some fantastic material. While I wouldn’t say that any new ground is broken here, the band is so good at the historically proven ground it covers that the disc is a pleasure from start to finish. Bagatellen, Mark Medwin

Featuring Sabir Mateen on saxes, flute & clarinet, Matt Lavelle on trumpets, flugel & cornet, Steve Swell on trombone, Matt Heyner on contrabass and Michael T.A. Thompson on drums. Here’s a fine new disc from Federico Ughi’s great 577 label featuring a great local all-star quintet. Rather than just another free/jazz session, we find our local heroes getting into a great groove-fest with inspired solos from all five members. “Sekasso Blues” is an earthy, bluesy intro with Sabir’s feisty tenor sax, Lavelle’s spirited muted trumpet (cornet?) and Steve Swell’s burning trombone. While each horn player takes a great solo, the another horn punctuates with short, quick, tight blasts underneath. “The Beauty Within” begins freely with just the bass and drums, slowly the the horns come in swirling around one another.BLG, Downtown Music Gallery