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. 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.
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.
Later life and career
In 1985, Roberts joined the quartet of trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and played with him over the next six years before leaving to start his own band.
Roberts’ critically acclaimed discography reflects his versatility as an artist; his recordings include solo piano, duets, and trio arrangements of jazz standards as well as original suites of music, large ensemble works, and symphony orchestra recordings (beginning with Portraits in Blue, Sony Classical, 1996). 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 (November 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 with his new ensemble, The Modern Jazz Generation.
Roberts is an accomplished composer who has received numerous commissioning awards, including ones from Jazz at Lincoln Center, Chamber Music America, ASCAP, as well as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Savannah Music Festival, who also jointly commissioned his first piano concerto—Spirit of the Blues: Piano Concerto in C-Minor. The concerto was premiered with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Robert Spano in 2013. Roberts first performed as a soloist with a symphony orchestra in 1992 with Maestra Marin Alsop. Since that time, he has performed with orchestras all over the world, but most frequently with his long-time friend and mentor, Maestro Seiji Ozawa.
Roberts has also long been dedicated to the training and development of younger musicians. Over the years he has trained (or helped to train) over 30 young jazz musicians who continue to perform professionally, including Aaron Diehl and Jonathan Batiste (piano), Roland Guerin, Rodney Jordan, and Reuben Rogers (bass), Jason Marsalis, Ali Jackson, and Jamison Ross (drums), Marcus Printup, Nicholas Payton, Scotty Barnhart, Etienne Charles, Tim Blackmon and Alphonso Horne (trumpet), Ron Westray and Vincent Gardner (trombone), Stephen Riley, Walter Blanding, Tissa Khosla, and Ricardo Pascal (tenor sax), and Ted Nash, Victor Goines, and Joe Goldberg (Clarinet). Roberts serves as Associate Artistic Director for the Savannah Music Festival as well as the Director of the festival's “Swing Central” high school band competition and educational programs for students from all over the country. Roberts is on the faculty at the School of Music at Florida State University. In May 2014, his many contributions to the field of music were acknowledged through the awarding of an honorary Doctor of Music degree from The Juilliard School. The same year, Roberts' life and work were featured on a 60 Minutes segment entitled "The Virtuoso".
- 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.