Roberts performing at Festival de Jazz de Vitoria in 2010
August 7, 1963 |
Jacksonville, Florida, U.S.
Marcus Roberts (born August 7, 1963) is an American jazz pianist, composer, arranger, bandleader, and teacher.
Roberts was born in Jacksonville, Florida. Blind since the age of five due to glaucoma and cataracts, he attended the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine, Florida, the alma mater of another distinguished musician, Ray Charles. Roberts began teaching himself to play piano at an early age, had his first lesson at age 12, and then studied the instrument with pianist Leonidas Lipovetsky while attending Florida State University.
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His piano style, while based on the entire history of jazz, is known to have a "deep soul" character inherited from his mother, a gospel singer, uniting intellect and spirituality in his playing. Roberts is also known for developing a completely new philosophy and style for the jazz trio in which the bass, drums, and piano are all featured equally. While his music is steeped in tradition, the tradition also serves as a springboard for his creation of new sounds, concepts, and ideas that have served as a foundation for his original compositions for solo piano, trio, large ensemble, and piano and orchestra. One of the hallmarks of Roberts' piano style is the complete independence of his right and left hands, which has led many to comment that it sounds like two pianists playing at the same time.
Achievements and awards
At the age of 21, Roberts toured with Wynton Marsalis with his own band for six years. Roberts’ critically acclaimed, recorded music includes: solo piano, duets, and trio arrangements of jazz standards, original suites of music, large ensemble works, and symphony orchestra recordings (beginning with Portraits in Blue, Sony Classical, 1996). In 1998, Roberts was awarded his most esteemed award, the Helen Keller Award for Personal Achievement. He premiered his ground-breaking arrangement of Gershwin’s Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra with the New Japan Philharmonic and then recorded it with the Berlin Philharmonic (DVD: A Gershwin Night, EuroArts 2003). Roberts’ release of New Orleans Meets Harlem, Volume 1 in 2009 was the first on his new label, J-Master Records. Since then, he has released a very popular holiday recording, Celebrating Christmas, a nonet recording of an original suite, Deep in the Shed: A Blues Suite (Nov 2012), a collaborative CD of the Marcus Roberts Trio with Béla Fleck called Across the Imaginary Divide (Rounder Records), and in 2013, three critically acclaimed CDs—From Rags to Rhythm, Together Again: Live in Concert, and Together Again: In the Studio. In 2014, Roberts released another suite of all-original music, called Romance, Swing, and the Blues.
He was commissioned by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Savannah Music Festival to write his first piano concerto—Spirit of the Blues: Piano Concerto in C-Minor. Roberts has performed as a soloist with orchestras all over the world including symphony orchestras with Maestra Marin Alsop (1992) and Maestro Seiji Ozawa. Roberts returned to Japan in September 2014 to share the stage with Ozawa with the world-renowned Saito Kinen Festival Orchestra.
His dedication for developing younger musicians led him to serve as Aimssociate Artistic Director for the Savannah Music Festival as well as the Director of the annual “Swing Central” high school band competition and educational programs for students from all over the country. He is on the faculty at the School of Music at Florida State University. In May 2014, Roberts many contributions to the field of music were acknowledged through the awarding of an honorary Doctor of Music degree from The Juilliard School. All of this hard work and experience came together in 2012 with the founding of a completely new band—The Modern Jazz Generation, who released their first CD in October 2014. This multigenerational band was founded on the principles of mentoring in jazz and has 12 accomplished musicians, ranging in age from their early 20s to their 50s.
In 2014, Roberts was honored to have his life and work featured on a segment of the celebrated CBS News television show 60 Minutes. The show, entitled “The Virtuoso”, traced Roberts’ life to date from his early roots in Jacksonville and at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind to his career as a prolific, modern jazz musician.
- The Truth Is Spoken Here (1988)
- Deep in the Shed (1989)
- Alone with Three Giants (1990)
- Prayer for Peace (1991)
- As Serenity Approaches (1991)
- If I Could Be with You (1993)
- Gershwin for Lovers (1994)
- Portraits in Blue (1995)
- Plays Ellington (1995)
- Time and Circumstance (1996)
- Blues for the New Millennium (1997)
- The Joy of Joplin (1998)
- In Honor of Duke (1999)
- Cole after Midnight (2001)
- A Gershwin Night (2003)
- Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F (2006)
- New Orleans Meets Harlem, Volume 1 (2009)
- Celebrating Christmas (2011)
- Deep in the Shed: A Blues Suite (2012)
- From Rags to Rhythm (2013)
- Together Again: Live in Concert (2013)
- Together Again: In the Studio (2013)
- Romance, Swing, and the Blues (2014)
- Across the Imaginary Divide, with Bela Fleck, Rodney Jordan and Jason Marsalis (2012)
With Mark Whitfield
- The Marksman (Warner, 1990)
With Elvin Jones
With Wynton Marsalis
- J Mood (1985)
- Standard Time, Vol. 1 (1986)
- Live at Blues Alley (1987)
- The Majesty of the Blues (1989)
- Standard Time, Vol. 2: Intimacy Calling (1991)
- Thick in the South: Soul Gestures in Southern Blue, Vol. 1 (1991)
- Uptown Ruler: Soul Gestures in Southern Blue, Vol. 2 (1991)
- Levee Low Moan: Soul Gestures in Southern Blue, Vol. 3 (1991)
- Standards and Ballads (compilation, 2008)
- The Music of America: Wynton Marsalis (2012)
- Higher Ground (2005)?
- Hinson, Mark (March 27, 2014). "Marcus Roberts is next on '60 Minutes' this Sunday night". Tallahassee.com. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
- Marsalis, Wynton (March 30, 2014). "The Virtuoso: Marcus Roberts". CBS. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
- "Biography of Marcus Roberts". Marcus Roberts. Marcus Roberts Enterprises, Inc. 2015. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
- Wynton, Marsalis (June 22, 2014). "The Virtuoso: Marcus Roberts". video interview. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
- "Awards and Honors". Marcus Roberts. Retrieved 2016-03-10.