‘Together Again’ With Wynton Marsalis, 20 Years LaterJanuary 4th, 2014
by NPR Staff
Marcus Roberts was a very young, very gifted pianist back in 1985, when Wynton Marsalis tapped him to join his band.
Six years later, Roberts went off to lead his own combo — and to write both jazz and classical music. And he taught. And he toured. And he recorded.
In fact, Marcus Roberts just released three new albums. One of them is a 12-part jazz suite. The other two take him back to the beginning: They’re his first collaborations with Wynton Marsalis in 20 years.
“A lot of people forget how well [Marsalis] still plays the trumpet, you know?” Roberts says. “It’s a funny story: I had one of my students prepare the microphone for him. We were doing the soundchecks and everything before we did the recording. Wynton walked in there and played one note. And of course, they had to completely adjust everything; he was putting so much sound through the horn. … Believe me, he wasn’t playing around.”
Marcus Roberts’ new collaborations with Wynton Marsalis are called Together Again in the Studio and Together Again Live in Concert. His trio plays on both those albums, and also accompanies him on his album of original music, From Rags to Rhythm.
Roberts recently spoke with weekends on All Things Considered host Arun Rath about the group dynamics of his trio (Rodney Jordan, bass; Jason Marsalis, drums), creating a 12-part suite and reuniting with his old bandmate.
“There’s just a comfort level,” Roberts says. “You know, it’s kind of rare out here. You have a lot of people that you work with, that you enjoy working with, and they can play and everything. But certainly with he and I there is some kind of special spiritual connection as well as a musical connection, so we understand what we’re out here doing. Even beyond just playing — it’s kind of an unspoken thing we’ve always had.”
Marcus Roberts releases new CD, Deep in the Shed: A Blues SuiteDecember 5th, 2012
J-Master Music is pleased to announce the release of Marcus Roberts’ new recording, Deep in the Shed: A Blues Suite, featuring a nonet of Roberts’ close musician friends, including regular trio members Rodney Jordan (bass) and Jason Marsalis (drums).
Deep in the Shed was originally written and released in 1989. After completely revising and re-arranging the suite, Marcus re-recorded it (in Tallahassee, FL) for the current release on his own label, J-Master Music. The story of the new recording can be found in the liner notes posted here on the website.
This new release, Deep in the Shed: A Blues Suite, will make a perfect addition to your holiday gift list for all your jazz aficionados! And while you are adding to your list don’t forget the Marcus Robert’s Trio’s 2011 holiday CD release Celebrating Christmas.
Celebrating Christmas was praised by reviewers, a best seller on Amazon’s Holiday CD list, and the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was selected by USA Today for their Holiday Playlist. Both CDs are available either through our web store or Amazon.
Downbeat Magazine InterviewAugust 30th, 2012
The September 2012 issue of Downbeat magazine includes an interview with Marcus Roberts and Béla Fleck about their current tour, Across the Imaginary Divide. The interview includes comments on the evolving chemistry of performing together on tour. You’ll find the article on page 18 of the magazine. Click here for the online version, and visit the calendar page of www.marcusroberts.com for a performance near you.
Hail to the QueenAugust 4th, 2012
I’ve been hearing a lot about Queen Elizabeth II lately (after her gutsy video performance at the Olympics). It inspired me to listen to Ellington’s “The Queen’s Suite” – he wrote it for her majesty over 50 years ago. Quite a lady! And some great music. Here is a recording of Duke’s The Single Petal of a Rose I did a little while ago and will be included in a future solo release.
Interview with The Marcus Roberts Trio and Béla FleckJuly 23rd, 2012
While the Trio and Béla Fleck were performing in June at the Blue Note Jazz Club in NYC, Béla, Marcus, Rodney, and Jason visited the WBGO studios to talk with Gary Walker about the new CD, Across the Imaginary Divide. In a wide-ranging conversation which includes several songs from the CD, they talk about playing together, composing the songs, their instruments and musical influences, the evolution of American music from its roots in Ragtime and Blues, NBA basketball playoffs, and much more! Click here to listen.
“Across the Imaginary Divide”July 19th, 2012
The first tour of Across the Imaginary Divide for Béla Fleck with the Marcus Roberts Trio in May and June of this year has been a huge success. Many fans (and critics) have been surprised by what they first thought to be an “unlikely pairing” but in the words of Nate Chinen of The New York Times, “the music sounds disarmingly fresh.” Describing the collaboration between Roberts and Fleck during their performances at the Blue Note Jazz Club in NYC, The New York Times writes, “the seemingly effortless rapport has a lot to do with both musicians’ adaptability, but it also reflects the attentiveness of Mr. Roberts’s working trio, with Rodney Jordan on bass and Jason Marsalis on drums.”
As Roberts said in an interview with the Florida Times-Union before the Jacksonville Jazz Festival, he knows that “people’s initial reaction to the pairing tends to provoke some head-scratching.” “There does seem to be a little bit of shock,” he said. “A little bit of, ‘What? You’re playing with Bela? What in the world could you be playing?’ … But always in a friendly way, you know, not in a bad way.” They may come from different styles, but they share a musical vision as well as a passion for their instruments. Roberts said he appreciates that Fleck is a virtuoso who is intimate with every aspect of the banjo, just as he is with the piano. Ten years ago, though, if you had asked if he could imagine himself playing with a banjoist and stopping at bluegrass festivals, he probably would have said, “No.” “It just goes to show, until you know people and play with them, you don’t know,” he said. The history of American music inspires them both, he said, and they wanted the album to have a feeling of their soul and blues roots.
The tour started this spring with the release of the collaborative CD, Across the Imaginary Divide (Rounder Records). Since then there has been lots of great reviews and lots of incredible music made out there on the road! The tour has stopped in places as far-ranging as a wonderful 200-seat music hall in Brownfield, Maine to a crowd of 10,000 at the Telluride festival. It’s been great fun. After a stop at the Caramoor Festival in early August, the group will resume their tour in late summer. Check the calendar at www.marcusroberts.com for a date near you. Across the Imaginary Divide is available both as a MP3 download and CD album.
Marcus Roberts Trio in the UKMarch 17th, 2012
Saturday March 17, 2012 is not only St. Patrick’s Day, it’s also the day the Marcus Roberts Trio heads off to London again. So for those of you in the UK, they hope to see you at one of the shows. Check the calendar page on the web site for details. If you miss the trio this time, they will be back in November for the London Jazz Festival. See you soon!
Savannah Music Festival’s Swing Central Jazz 2012 is coming up!January 30th, 2012
Each year at the end of March, Marcus Roberts gets ready to head to Savannah for the world-renowned Savannah Music Festival. Certainly, it’s a fantastic place to hear great music every year but for Roberts, it’s also the home of “Swing Central Jazz” – where twelve great high school bands are selected each year to come to perform, learn and compete. Marcus Roberts is the Associate Director for Jazz Education at Swing Central. This year, 19 other great jazz musicians will join him on the Swing Central Jazz faculty and re-connecting with these other clinicians each year is a lot of fun and makes for some great music. But Roberts’ favorite part of the Swing Central program is the opportunity to work with so many talented and hard-working young musicians. The future of jazz is very bright in their hands.
Marcus Roberts Trio releases new Christmas CD, Celebrating ChristmasNovember 8th, 2011
Jacksonville, FL – Today, J-Master Records announces the release of its newest Marcus Roberts Trio recording, Celebrating Christmas, featuring bassist Rodney Jordan and drummer, Jason Marsalis, alongside Roberts at the piano. In the liner notes of the new CD, Roberts comments, “I have been considering doing another Christmas recording for a few years. I have been blessed in my career so far to be able to do so many things, and since Christmas is a time for reflection and sharing with others, I decided that this was the right time for this recording. I have chosen some of my favourite holiday melodies to share with you. These are all new arrangements and I think that those of you who are familiar with our trio’s unique style and sound will recognize it here.”