Famed for his performances in the New York City subway system with the free jazz quartet Test, Sabir Mateen plays a passionate yet nuanced tenor as his main ax, but is equally comfortable on alto sax, clarinet, and flute. Mateen is capable of raw, all-out explosion, but frequently displays a wide dynamic range and a subtler side, and sometimes leans toward melodic free-bop. A native of Philadelphia, Mateen made his first recordings on the West Coast with pianist Horace Tapscott's Pan African People's Arkestra in 1980, and also played with Sun Ra, though he never officially joined Ra's band. In 1989, Mateen relocated to New York with prompting from the legendary drummer Sunny Murray, and spent the next few years paying his dues on the avant-garde scene.
In 1995, he recorded the duo album Getting Away With Murder with drummer Tom Bruno; a live performance in New York's Grand Central Station, it was released on Eremite. Mateen's recording activity steadily increased over the next few years. He joined Bruno's quartet Test, which also featured bassist Matt Heyner and saxophonist Daniel Carter, and was noted for its impromptu guerrilla concerts in New York subway stations. Mateen's other notable side engagements included work with the Raphe Malik Quartet and the One World Ensemble, and he also formed the trio Tenor Rising, Drums Expanding with Daniel Carter and drummer David Nuss, which began recording for Sound @ One in 1997. Also that year, Mateen led his own trio (with bassist John Voigt and drummer Lawrence Cook) on a session for Eremite, the well-received Divine Mad Love. The following year, he teamed with Sunny Murray for We Are Not at the Opera, a duo album on Eremite; additionally, a spate of Test recordings appeared over 1998-1999. Late 2000 brought more recordings in a duo format: Brothers Together, with the brilliant Hamid Drake on Eremite, and Sun Xing, with Ben Karetnick on JMZ. In early 2001, Mateen led a quintet also featuring Raphe Malik on the Bleu Regard release Secrets of When. ~ Steve Huey