Jamming behind the scenes with jazz greats

March 30th, 2014

A 60 Minutes shoot never quite looked– or sounded– like this before. Life for jazz greats Wynton Marsalis and Marcus Roberts is a non-stop jam session.

What’s it like to hang out with jazz musicians? Just ask 60 Minutes producer David Browning, who teamed up with CBS correspondent Wynton Marsalis this week to report on the remarkable, little-known jazz pianist Marcus Roberts.

“Having a rollicking good time with jazz musicians, for me, is really, really easy,” says Browning. “I can’t think of anybody I’d rather hang out with, very frankly. They’re great conversationalists. They have tremendous senses of humor, Marcus and Wynton particularly. So for me, this was the ideal assignment.”

60 Minutes camera crews captured one of those rollicking scenes at a tiny house on the outskirts of Jacksonville, Fla., where Wynton, Marcus, and Marcus’ mother, Coretta, all joined in for an impromptu gospel jam. Then, at the neighborhood Baptist church around the corner, everyone but the cameraman took a turn pounding the keys of an out-of-tune piano.

“If there’s an instrument around, somebody’s gonna be playing it,” says Browning. “It’s their way of speaking. They literally live and breathe the music, 24/7.”

Click here to visit this CBS 60 Minutes story!

Visionary Man: Marcus Roberts and his expansive view of jazz.

March 28th, 2014

By Ted Panken
Jazziz, February 2014

Wynton Marsalis, who does not suffer fools and has built an empire doing things his way, does not readily accept criticism. But when pianist Marcus Roberts speaks, Marsalis listens.

During a 2005 interview, Marsalis enthusiastically recalled discussions with Roberts during the pianist’s 1985-’91 tenure in several of his bands. “We discussed philosophical questions about music, like whether in jazz the bottom can move like the top,” he told me. “It’s hard to create a groove with melodic motion in the bottom. So what do you do with the bass? We talked about a lot of harmony versus no harmony; atonal music versus tonal music; should we focus more on abstract concepts or on melody? Is abstraction a dead-end street or on the cutting edge?” Two years after that conversation, in October 2007, Marsalis drove 1,100 miles from New York City to Tallahassee, Florida, to collaborate with Roberts — who teaches at Florida State University.

Click here to read the entire article

Marcus Roberts: “All Kinds of Things”

March 28th, 2014

At 50, the pianist is as resourceful and ambitious as ever

by Michael J. West
Jazz Times, February 2014

“We were talking, the [Jazz at Lincoln Center] Orchestra, about who we consider to be a genius,” laughs Wynton Marsalis. “I said someone was a genius and cats were laughing at it. So I said, ‘All right, then, who do you consider a genius?’ And the cats said, ‘Marcus Roberts.’”

If anyone is aware of Roberts’ brilliance, it’s Marsalis; after all, he first made his mark in the trumpeter’s band from 1985 to 1991. Ask Roberts, though, and he’s simply a hard?working artist, even if his profile on the jazz landscape isn’t what it once was, despite efforts like his 2012 disc with Béla Fleck, Across the Imaginary Divide, and the nonet recording Deep in the Shed: A Blues Suite, released that same year. “To some folks it may have appeared like I haven’t been doing a lot over these last years,” the pianist and composer, 50, says on the phone from his home in Tallahassee. A native
Floridian, Roberts is a jazz studies professor at Florida State University. “Maybe the sense was that I was just walking my dog every day at 5 o’clock and wasn’t really doing much. But quite to the contrary, I’m always working—on all kinds of things.”

Click here to read the entire article

Marcus Roberts Elevates, Expands the Canon

March 28th, 2014

by Joe Tangari
DownBeat, February 2014

Pianist Marcus Roberts keeps a full schedule: composing, recording, touring and teaching. On Nov. 12 he released three new albums on his own J-Master label. From Rags To Rhythm features his trio with Jason Marsalis on drums and Rodney Jordan on bass. Roberts worked hard to compose music that gave his bandmates control over the direction of the music, and From Rags To Rhythm is an impressive suite that stays unpredictable over 12 complex movements. A new studio album, Together Again: In The Studio, and a live disc, Together Again: Live In Concert, both feature Roberts’ trio with Roland Guerin on bass and Wynton Marsalis guesting on trumpet. Roberts spoke with DownBeat to discuss the creative process behind the music.

Click here for the entire interview

‘Together Again’ With Wynton Marsalis, 20 Years Later

January 4th, 2014

by NPR Staff

Click here to listen to NPR podcast with Marcus Roberts


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’ Jazz At Lincoln Center Performance Exploded with Innovated Melodic Lines and Delicate Chromatic Harmonies

September 26th, 2013

By Danny R. Johnson
San Diego County News, September 2013

The late Shirley Valerie Horn, an American jazz singer and pianist, shared with me in a conversation at a Washington, DC jazz event back in 2002 her thoughts of pianist, composer, arranger, and jazz educator Marcus Roberts: “Marcus is probably the best musician around today who can play Harlem Stride piano in the style of Bud Powell, James Johnson, Art Tatum and Earl Hines all rolled into a sound that is uniquely his own.” Horn collaborated with many jazz greats including Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Toots Thielemans, Ron Carter, Carmen McRae, Wynton Marsalis and others. And if there is anyone who knows jazz piano – Shirley knew what she was talking about.

Click here to read the entire article

Marcus Roberts releases new CD, Deep in the Shed: A Blues Suite

December 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 Interview

August 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 Queen

August 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 Fleck

July 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.