Pianist Marcus Roberts along with his trio members, Jason Marsalis (drums) and Rodney Jordan (bass), founded the Modern Jazz Generation in 2013 but its roots go back much further. This band is based on the principle of mentoring that was such a critical part of the evolution of jazz. Older jazz musicians have always worked with and mentored younger musicians on the stage. Mentoring and education are both critical parts of Marcus Roberts’ musical mission and this new band has been a part of the realization of that mission.
History of the Band
Marcus Roberts and Jason Marsalis have been playing together regularly since 1994 when Jason was only 17 years old. At that time, Roland Guerin was the bassist for the trio and the group became widely known for their totally new style of playing that was powerfully rhythmic and melodic. The group integrated and developed a style of collective improvisation that was as fascinating to watch as it was to hear. When Roberts joined the faculty of Florida State University in 2004, he first had the opportunity to play with bassist/jazz instructor, Rodney Jordan. In 2009, Jordan became a regular member of the Marcus Roberts Trio. Tenor saxophonist, Stephen Riley, first played in Marcus Roberts’ band at age 19, in 1995. He is a creative and soulful player who has been an important mentor to all of the younger members of the group. These four musicians have served as the core group of senior musicians for the Modern Jazz Generation.
Marcus Printup (trumpet) and Ron Westray (trombone), both of whom were critical to the Romance, Swing, and the Blues recording project, have also had a long association with Marcus Roberts. Roberts began mentoring each of them individually in 1991. Randall Haywood is the newest member of the band. He first played with Roberts in 1996 when he was in high school and he was a part of Roberts’ Blues for the New Millennium recording project in the late 1990s. During that time, Printup also served as a mentor for young Haywood. In turn, Haywood has taught and mentored the next generation of musicians, two of whom are key members of The Modern Jazz Generation—Alphonso Horne and Corey Wilcox.
Joining the core group of musicians is an extended family of senior musicians who support the same mission and who may join the group for selected shows and who have provided important mentoring advice. These include such musicians as Terrell Stafford (trumpet), Wycliffe Gordon (trombone), Jeff Clayton (saxophone), Dave Stryker (guitar), and others. All of these musicians have been touring and recording professionally for many years and the Modern Jazz Generation’s philosophoy is that all of the members of the group, younger and older, will benefit enormously from that collective experience.
The Modern Jazz Generation incorporates a core group of very talented younger musicians at the beginning of their careers: Ricardo Pascal (tenor and soprano saxophones), Joe Goldberg (clarinet and alto saxophone), Tissa Khosla (baritone and tenor saxophones), Corey Wilcox (trombone/tuba), and Alphonso Horne and Tim Blackmon (trumpets). Others will join them at times.
Marcus Roberts speaks about younger members of the band
On Ricardo Pascal: “Ricardo has been a key member of the group from the beginning. He is a serious tenor player with a beautiful sound that just keeps getting better by the day.”
On Joe Goldberg: “When I first met Joe Goldberg, he was double-majoring in physics and music but he is now dedicating himself to the clarinet. He’s an intelligent, gifted, and hard-working young musician.”
On Tissa Khosla: “Tissa is a study in musical tenacity. He wanted to join the band so when I told him that the only room I had in the group was on baritone, he took out a loan, got a job, rented a baritone, and started practicing for hours a day.”
On Alphonso Horne: “Alphonso has a totally original sound on the trumpet. When he was one of my students, I had no doubt that he would become one of the great trumpet players of his generation.”
On Tim Blackmon: “Tim used to come to my office to watch almost every lesson I taught without uttering a word, just taking everything in, waiting for the opportunity to play. He just kept studying, practicing, and getting better all the time.”
On Corey Wilcox: “Corey is an amazing young talent and plays with a lot of much rhythm and soul