Marcus Roberts leads festival’s ‘Jazz Junior’ event

When it came time for the question-and-answer session at Friday’s “Jazz Junior” program with the Marcus Roberts Trio, Burlington mother Shannon Roesch asked if the musicians liked practicing when they were young or had to be made to do it “kicking and screaming.”

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When it came time for the question-and-answer session at Friday’s “Jazz Junior” program with the Marcus Roberts Trio, Burlington mother Shannon Roesch asked if the musicians liked practicing when they were young or had to be made to do it “kicking and screaming.”

It wasn’t hard to guess from her question that Roesch has experience with the latter. She said after the program ended that her 8-year-old son, Felix, definitely falls into the kicking-and-screaming category when it comes to practicing the piano, something Felix doesn’t deny.

“No, not that much,” the Champlain Elementary School student said when asked if he likes practicing. “I’m really glad to be on summer break, because I really want to take a break from the piano.” He said there’s always something more important for him to do, like take a shower.

Hygiene is crucial, to be sure. Roesch and her husband, Benjamin Roesch, hoped to accomplish something less tangible by taking Felix and his Beatles-and-“Hamilton”-soundtrack-loving 5-year-old brother, Leo, to the musical-information session Roberts and his trio led at FlynnSpace.

Roberts, who leads his trio Saturday night in two Burlington Discover Jazz Festival concerts, told the crowd there are many different styles and that as people get older they start appreciating a variety of music. “Think about it,” Roberts said. “When you were a baby you liked mushy baby food. It’s the same with music — the more you hear, the more you like.”

It wasn’t hard to guess from her question that Roesch has experience with the latter. She said after the program ended that her 8-year-old son, Felix, definitely falls into the kicking-and-screaming category when it comes to practicing the piano, something Felix doesn’t deny.

“No, not that much,” the Champlain Elementary School student said when asked if he likes practicing. “I’m really glad to be on summer break, because I really want to take a break from the piano.” He said there’s always something more important for him to do, like take a shower.

Hygiene is crucial, to be sure. Roesch and her husband, Benjamin Roesch, hoped to accomplish something less tangible by taking Felix and his BeatlJason Marsalis of Marcus Roberts Trio demonstrateses-and-“Hamilton”-soundtrack-loving 5-year-old brother, Leo, to the musical-information session Roberts and his trio led at FlynnSpace.

Roberts, who leads his trio Saturday night in two Burlington Discover Jazz Festival concerts, told the crowd there are many different styles and that as people get older they start appreciating a variety of music. “Think about it,” RobeMarcus Roberts of Marcus Roberts Trio plays a Juniorrts said. “When you were a baby you liked mushy baby food. It’s the same with music — the more you hear, the more you like.”

His drummer, Jason Marsalis, demonstrated the sounds of country (fast-moving brushes replacing drumsticks), Afro-Cuban (irregular taps on the drum kit, including the hard-shell exterior) and reggae (deeper, slower beats). Bass player Rodney Jordan led a slow but cheery take on the gospel standard “Amazing Grace,” as well as a funky disco interlude.

Roberts introduced a hip-hop sound with heavy shuffling beats. “That can actually make it boring after awhile, because you keep hearing the same thing over and over and over and over,” Roberts said, acknowledging he’s “a little old for that.”

They moved to a sound many of the young people in the crowd might not know but the jazz-loving adults with them would definitely appreciate: swing. They played the traditional tune “Billy Boy” straight, a bland nursery rhyme set to music. Then they added swing; Jordan made rapid plunks on his bass, Marsalis rushed his brushes across the drum skins, and Roberts played a sprightly piano. Listeners’ shoulders swayed as they sat. “BillAudience members listen to the Marcus Roberts Trioy Boy” was now vibrant rather than banal.

The trio demonstrated the musical concept of time by playing out of time, which sounded like three guys falling down different flights of stairs. Then they got in sync, and the swing was back. They illustrated the musical idea of call and response by having the crowd join in on “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” which of course led everyone to clap their hands.

“You have to give credit to parents. Believe me, we didn’t sound then like we sound now,” Roberts said, adding that his parents might have wished at times they had bought him a train set instead of a piano.

Eight-year-old Felix said he’s unsure what he learned at “Jazz Junior.” He said he did learn that Roberts, the festival’s artist-in-residence this year, is blind. He also learned he’s nowhereMarcus Roberts Trio plays during a Junior Jazz matinee near as good as Roberts on the piano.

“Nooooo,” Felix said. “I’ve only been playing two years.”

Some lessons, though, taketime to sink in. The trio concluded with “The Spanish Tinge.” That lively piece was just complex enough to include pretty mu

ch every lesson they gave for the past hour, with the exception of the bad-timing lesson.

This story was first posted online on Saturday, June 11, 2016. Contact Brent Hallenbeck at 660-1844 or bhallenbeck@freepressmedia.com. Follow Brent on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BrentHallenbeck.

Story by BRENT HALLENBECK, Burlington Free Press Staff Writer

Photos by MONICA DONOVAN for the Free Press