Review: Marcus Roberts Trio: Marcus Roberts - piano;Rodney Jordan - double bass;Jason Marsalis - drums
(Wigmore Hall, London Jazz Festival, November 16th 2009, Review by Kate Williams)
The Marcus Roberts Trio played entirely acoustically last Monday at the Wigmore Hall to an audience who were captivated from the outset.
The influence of early 20th century jazz was evident both in choice of much of the material (Jelly Roll Morton's New Orleans Blues, Fats Waller's Honeysuckle Rose and Jitterbug Waltz), and in the style of playing, particularly Roberts' often simple triadic left-hand voicings and right hand melodies. Against this backdrop, the use of more contemporary harmonies became all the more poignant.
Roberts' managed to incorporate quotations in the most unexpected places - both canny and inventive, but always musical, never sounding self-conscious or out of place. A slowish version of Out Of Nowhere provided a canvas for splashes of both Joe Henderson's Isotope , and Victor Feldman's Seven Steps To Heaven.
Jitterbug Waltz was a high point (one of many). Opening with a hypnotic brushes drum riff by Marsalis, Roberts proceeded to play the melody with beautiful focus, his singing piano tone and rich sound pallet to the fore.
The communication between the band members was flawless, and the grooves were always strong regardless of the dynamic level, which was sometimes barely above a whisper. Roberts played incredibly softly and quickly without sacrificing clarity. (As a piano player, I was looking on with both awe and envy!)
With a solo piano version of Pete Johnson's KC on My Mind demonstrating Roberts' boogie woogie skills, a concise version of Coltrane's Naima, several Cole Porter tunes (with some interesting rhythmic displacement in What Is This Thing Called Love ), one original tune, and a sprinkling of Monk and Ellington, this was a concert of both engaging and moving music.
(Photo credit: Eric Smith, Knoxville TN)