CURRENT TOURING ENSEMBLES
Marcus Roberts has trained many young musicians over the years. His most recent project is a 12-piece band that was established in 2013. The band is based on principles of mentoring in jazz and includes musicians from three different generations. Check out the Modern Jazz Generation page for more information.
The Marcus Roberts Trio was originally founded in early 1994. Jason Marsalis was chosen first to hold the drum chair in the trio and he is still an active member of the band. The original bassist for the trio was Roland Guerin from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The trio is known for its powerfully rhythmic, strongly melodic, and virtuosic style. Drummer Jason Marsalis has been a key part of the group sound and style that is the hallmark of this trio. Bassist Rodney Jordan joined the trio in 2009 and his profound musical intelligence and powerful swing has already left its mark on the group sound. Link to the trio page for more information about the group.
PAST TOURING GROUPS
Marcus Roberts has been a member of and also led a number of different groups in the past. The listing below includes several of the important professional groups that were an important part of his career. In addition to these groups, there have been so many other musicians who have shared in Roberts’ life and career, starting with his mother, whose phenomenal voice and passion for gospel music can be heard in nearly everything Roberts plays.
Wynton Marsalis Groups (Quartet, Quintet, Sextet, and Septet)
Marcus Roberts joined Wynton Marsalis’ quartet in 1985, replacing pianist Kenny Kirkland. The members of the original quartet also included Bob Hurst and Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts. Between 1987 and 1989, they toured with a quintet (with Todd Williams) and sextet (which at that time included Herlin Riley, Reginald Veal, Wess Anderson, Todd William, Wynton Marsalis and Marcus Roberts. The septet was formed in 1989 when Wycliffe Gordon joined the group, playing trombone. They recorded at least a dozen CDs during this time period.
Marcus Roberts Quintet
Roberts’ first professional band as a leader was formed in 1989. It included Chris Thomas (bass), Maurice Carnes (drums), Herb Harris (tenor saxophone), and Scotty Barnhart (trumpet). There were a lot of different musicians in the group at different times until the official Marcus Roberts Trio was formed in the mid-1990s. Roberts met Marcus Printup and Ron Westray in 1991 and they have both been an integral part of all of his larger ensembles since that time.
Duo Piano Tour
During 1992 and 1993, Marcus Roberts and Ellis Marsalis toured and presented a wide range of two-piano shows. It was during that tour that the seeds for the Marcus Roberts Trio were planted. Roberts had decided that he wanted Ellis’ son Jason to join his trio when Jason got to his senior year of high school. Ellis agreed.
Musical Director, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra Tours
During 1994 and 1995, Roberts served as Musical Director for two nationwide tours of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. One of those tours featured the music of Louis Armstrong and the other included a range of music reflecting the whole history of jazz.
Rhapsody in Blue Tour
In 1996, I toured all across the U.S. with a group of about 24 musicians, half classical players and half jazz musicians. The tour followed the release of Portraits in Blue, my first project integrating jazz and classical music sensibilities. This was the largest group tour that I have ever coordinated and it was a challenge. That project paved the way for my 1997 large ensemble project – Blues for the New Millennium.
Marcus Roberts Trio and Béla Fleck
The Marcus Roberts Trio and the great banjo virtuoso, Béla Fleck, toured nationwide in 2012 and 2013, playing a program of original music, composed by Fleck and Roberts for their recording, “Across the Imaginary Divide”. It was an important collaboration for everyone involved since Fleck was not really a jazz musician and the trio knew very little about bluegrass. It forced everyone to have an open mind and to make compromises to make some truly great music. By the end of the tour, everyone agreed that the project had been very important to everyone’s development. In addition, audiences loved the music as well as the interplay between the trio members and Fleck.
TEACHING AND OTHER EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES
Assistant Professor, School of Music, Florida State University
Following a successful year (2003-2004 academic year) in which Roberts served as a Housewright Scholar at Florida State University in the School of Music, Roberts was invited to join the faculty at the school on a permanent (part-time) basis. He has been there ever since, working with many young people when he is in town.
Director, “Swing Central” Jazz, Savannah Music Festival
In 2008, Roberts was named Associate Artistic Director for the Savannah Music Festival. He also continues to direct the annual Swing Central educational programs and big band competition for high school jazz bands from around the country.
Training, Other Musicians
In addition to regular teaching with college-aged musicians, Marcus Roberts has trained (or helped to train) a large number of other jazz musicians. Among the many musicians that Roberts has trained and/or mentored are the following:
Piano: Aaron Diehl, Jonathan Batiste
Bass: Roland Guerin, Rodney Jordan, Reuben Rogers, Thaddeus Exposé
Drums: Jason Marsalis, Ali Jackson, Maurice Carnes, Bryan Blade, Jamison Ross, Leon Anderson, Adonis Rose
Tenor Sax: Walter Blanding, Herb Harris, Stephen Riley, the late Richard Brown, Ricardo Pascal
Alto Sax: Sherman Irby
Baritone Sax: Tissa Khosla
Clarinet: Ted Nash, Victor Goines, Joe Goldberg
Trumpet: Marcus Printup, Nicholas Payton, Etienne Charles, Randall Haywood, Alphonso Horne, Tim Blackmon
Trombone: Ron Westray, Vincent Gardner, Corey Wilcox