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Marcus Roberts

Jazz pianist Marcus Roberts' focus on traditional styles and his willingness to speak sometimes disdainfully of music of more contemporary vintage has not been well accepted in some circles, and for a time he began to engender the type of attacks more often reserved for Wynton Marsalis and others regarded as reactionaries by some members of the jazz press. But Roberts must be credited with going his own way; unlike many of today's jazz pianists, he has little if any ties to McCoy Tyner, Ahmad Jamal, or Bill Evans. He has some Thelonious Monk influence, especially in his phrasing, but Roberts' models have predominantly been Jelly Roll Morton and Fats Waller. While his earliest work reflected pronounced gospel and blues ties, mixed with bebop, Roberts later devoted himself to stride and ragtime, a tactical decision wide open to intense scrutiny and second-guessing.

Roberts studied piano at Florida State University after beginning on the instrument in his youth. He won several competitions in the mid-'80s, then joined Wynton Marsalis' band as his first regular pianist after Kenny Kirkland. Roberts emerged as the Marsalis band's second prime soloist, and the hub of its rhythm section. His swing kept the group focused, and prevented Marsalis' music from getting too stiff or introspective. Roberts' own late-'80s and '90s albums for RCA/Novus, particularly the 1990 release Alone with Three Giants, detailed his commitment to classic music. He continued to explore the past even upon the arrival of the 21st century, with such albums as 2001's Cole After Midnight (a Marcus Roberts Trio concept album featuring interpretations of Nat King Cole and Cole Porter) and 2009's New Orleans Meets Harlem, Vol. 1 (another trio date, this time focusing on the music of Duke Ellington and Scott Joplin as well as Monk, Morton, and Waller), his first album as a leader in eight years. The holiday-themed Celebrating Christmas followed in 2011. While he has received considerable acclaim for his interpretive skills with historic material, whether Marcus Roberts should be considered a dedicated preservationist or unrepentant nostalgia buff still remains open to debate. ~ Ron Wynn
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Deep In The Shed: A Blues Suite

x

Track List: Gershwin For Lovers

1. A Foggy Day

2. The Man I Love

3. Our Love Is Here To Stay

4. Summertime

5. Someone To Watch Over Me

6. It Ain't Necessarily So

7. Nice Work If You Can Get It

8. They Can't Take That Away From Me

9. How Long Has This Been Going On?

10. But Not For Me

Comments

Report as inappropriate
This man is awesome in his style, strongly Petersen, among the great.
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FIRST HEARD HIM LAST NIGHT ON 60 MINUTES. I LIKED WHAT I HEARD. LOOKING FORWARD TO HEARING MORE.
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bdjunk00
Thank you, 60 Minutes & Wynton M., for educating me about Marcus. My life's a little richer for it.
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maabalto7
Found out about him on 60 Minutes last night. Added him to my jazz station this morning.
Report as inappropriate
I actually had the chance to study some w. Marcus, and to say that he has little/ no influence by modern player like Mccoy Tyner and Ahmad Jamal is just false, and shows the complete ignorance and lack of knowledge about the music that this Reviewer has.......Ma r c u s Spent time studying all of the great pianist through out the history of jazz, and can accurately reference Mccoy and Ahmad better that most if not all pianist out there....... . . . . . L e a r n your s**t first if your gonna share ur opnini
Report as inappropriate
Marcus Roberts plays with fluency and expresivenes s . I like the flow of his solos and how he swings the music.
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maguey2
Better than Ellington and Monk? Cpbunge, what are you smoking?
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maguey2
Ouch! But love the lack of fear in the bio.
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Ironically, the reviewer in his critique "fails to penetrate the essence" of what it means to write a decent biography.
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kathleenshaf f n e r
Where have you guys been all my life? Oh, the joy & pleasure of great music & musicians!
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mathematics. c s d
Wow. The review here is way off the mark, in my view.

I followed Roberts for a bit in the 90s when he was doing a lot of standards. But I hadn't paid much attention since.

I saw him in Minnesota recently Holy cow! He had a few standards (Ain't Misbehavin', Anything Goes) in the set but he and his trio were doing some really amazing stuff with them. Tight, tight rhythmic changes, alternations between spare abstractions of the melody and freely flowing grooves... Nothing stale about it.
Report as inappropriate
I won't demonize Chris Kelsey quite as much as many of you seem to be willing to do - however, in the large I agree with your assessment of the bio and of Marcus Roberts. I can't speak first-hand to Roberts' alleged parochialism with regard to forms; however, I *will* say he reminds me a lot of Ahmad Jamal (a great "classicist" in his own right), and Jamal has certainly not gone out of style! Nothing at all wrong with full phrasing, either, a la Bill Evans and Wyn Kelly. You go, Marcus!
Report as inappropriate
I also agree with cpbunge: Chris Kelsey fails to distinguish between a "gifted mimic, ... reinventing the past," and a creative genius, surpassing and transcending his predecessors . Marcus Roberts, who is clearly (or audibly) the latter, demonstrates that classic artistic styles never become "obsolete" but provide instead the essential fertile ground in which future greatness must be firmly rooted.
Report as inappropriate
cpbunge
"A gifted mimic"? Listen to "Alone with Three Giants" and tell me that he doesn't play and interpret standards by Ellington, Morton, and Monk better than they did themselves! "Pastiche of obsolete styles"? His improvisatio n a l skills are amazing! Also, great music styles don't BECOME obsolete; they are called "classic," remember?
Report as inappropriate
Total agreement with you. I'll add despicable and disgusting. The real capper, IGNORANT!!!
Report as inappropriate
This bio/review is pathetic, horrible!!

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