Marcus Roberts (born September 7, 1963 in Jacksonville, Florida) is an American jazz pianist who has achieved fame as a gifted player committed to celebrating classic standards and jazz traditions.
Blind since his youth, Roberts began playing piano at an early age and then studied the instrument while attending Florida State University. In 1985, he got his big break when famed trumpeter Wynton Marsalis chose him as his new sideman. He became a close friend and disciple of Marsalis, and collaborated with him on many projects during the ensuing years.
With Marsalis' support and soon after joining him, Roberts began cutting his own records. His albums tend to be homages to past jazz greats, and Roberts has been falsely criticized for a lack of innovation. However, his playing ability and technique have always been highly regarded and his music has added to the vocabulary of modern jazz piano and the piano trio.
When listening to Roberts' music, one cannot help but notice, simultaneously, his utter devotion to his New Orleans roots and his bold strides onto the cutting edge. On a piece such as "Nebuchadnezzar" Roberts lays down all the tradional harmonies and chords, then builds an expansive tonal and melodic structure evoking slyness, joy, confidence, and just a touch of knowing world-weariness.
Roberts excels as an improvisor and re-interpreter in his solo performances and creates interesting and daring arrangments as a large band leader, but his chamber work will endure as his true contribution to American music. If traditional jazz is a juke joint or an urban club, Marcus Roberts builds sonic palaces, inviting his listener to come and pay homage to the living spirits of Monk, Ellington, Morton, Gershwin, and many more of his fellow geniuses.
In 2005, Roberts took a position as a professor of Jazz Studies at Florida State University. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.