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New Orleans Meets Harlem, Vol. 1

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Album Review

So much of Marcus Roberts' recorded canon has been about paying tribute to his heroes that there's an initial disappointment in learning that his first album in eight years returns to such familiar territory: the compositions of Duke Ellington, Scott Joplin, Thelonious Monk, Jelly Roll Morton, and Fats Waller. While Roberts is undeniably a gifted interpreter, he's previously dedicated entire albums to some of these gods, and one would have hoped for more than the one Roberts original that appears here, the closing tune, "Searching for the Blues." But Roberts is easily forgiven, as he has always brought enough of himself into his playing to earn respect as an originator, and he does so again here. Working with his usual accompanists, bassist Roland Guerin and drummer Jason Marsalis, Roberts matches introspection with a giddy chirpiness in Morton's "Honeysuckle Rose," puts a back-alley blues touch on Monk's "Ba-lue Bolivar Ba-lues-are," and, by giving a wide berth to his rhythm section, manages to turn Joplin's perennial "The Entertainer" into a very funky thing. Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'" stays closer to the script, and Roberts' take on Ellington's epic "Black and Tan Fantasy" lacks the sweeping grandeur of the template, but overall, Roberts succeeds admirably in making the case stated by the album's title: the line between the urbane sophistication of the Apple and drawled laid-back-ness of the Big Easy isn't quite as wide as one might think.

Customer Reviews

Down Home Up North: Gumbo with A Twist

Stellar Marcus Roberts rewards the listener with a blend of down south blues and up north standards in this superb collection. His trio opens lushly with a bit of New Orleans Blues. The sublime Ellington masterpiece Black and Tan Fantasy is here in worth hands. Bud Powell smiles from beyond with the melodic In Walked Bud. All in all, a real winner and stellar piano collection. We are reminded what Wynton Marsalis saw in Marcus Roberts once upon a time! Do yourself a this tonight and have an Abita Turbodog with a Nathan's redhot.

New Orleans Meets Harlem, Vol. 1, is a Blast!

After listening to Marcus Roberts this afternoon as he dropped by NPR's Studio 4A to demonstrate on the piano several of the songs on his latest album, I just couldn't resist downloading several of his tunes. One in particluar is the early Jelly Roll Morton tune "New Orleans Blues" as the composer might have played it. Others consisted of Roberts' trio (with Roland Guerin on bass and Jason Marsalis on drums) taking on "Jitterbug Waltz," by Harlem stride master Fats Waller and also Duke Ellington's "Pie Eye's Blues".


Born: August 7, 1963 in Jacksonville, FL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Jazz pianist Marcus Roberts' focus on traditional styles and his willingness to speak sometimes disdainfully of music of more contemporary vintage has not been well accepted in some circles, and for a time he began to engender the type of attacks more often reserved for Wynton Marsalis and others regarded as reactionaries by some members of the jazz press. But Roberts must be credited with going his own way; unlike many of today's jazz pianists, he has little if any ties to McCoy Tyner, Ahmad Jamal,...
Full Bio
New Orleans Meets Harlem, Vol. 1, Marcus Roberts Trio
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Blues
  • Released: Mar 24, 2009

Customer Ratings