Some people get praised for making jazz records that appeal to a wider audience. That's a good thing. There's no musical genre that covers a wider ground than jazz, so there's always going to be lots of space for crossovers. It's just that sometimes it seems a bit desperate. It might be done through commercial necessity, and I suppose if it's necessary then we can't argue with that. But sometimes it seems to be done out of fear. Fear that jazz isn't enough, that it isn't vital enough or important enough and we'd better start broadening our appeal quick or this thing's going to die.
Matana Roberts makes jazz for people who like jazz. A daring strategy, but one which she manages to succeed with via a particularly cunning plan, namely doing everything very well.
Eulalie, in case you didn't know, is a figure from a poem by that appalling hack Edgar Allen Poe. The narrator is a typically Poe-ish young fellow who wants to marry the beautiful Eulalie. We never learn much about her, but get to know him all too well. He's an emotionally stunted man-child full of self-pity, and the love of a good woman is the only thing that can fix him. Whether she wants to or not, by the sound of it. It's objectification, plain and simple.
Song for Eulalie is as urgent a musical message as you're going to hear. Roberts' big band pull out all the experimental stops and make a suite of sounds with an extraordinary emotional range. If this is Eulalie given musical life, she's a far more complex, more human character than anything Poe ever dreamt of. From the 2011 album Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens de couleur libres.
Matana Roberts - Song for Eulalie