Last year Marcus Roberts had his life and work featured on a moving segment labeled “The Virtuoso” on the celebrated CBS show 60 Minutes. The program traced Roberts’ life from his early roots in Jacksonville and his studies at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind to his remarkable career as a modern jazz musician. Roberts is perhaps best known for the development of a unique approach to jazz performance that features nearly unfathomable left and right hand independence in improvisation.
His mother's gospel singing and the music of the church became imprinted on Marcus’s musical style. Despite losing his sight at age five, he taught himself to play piano, but did not have a formal lesson until age 12. His talent was obvious. Later he studied classical piano at Florida State University under the tutelage of noted concert pianist and pedagogue Leonidas Lipovetsky. Of the many awards that Roberts ultimately received, the Helen Keller Award for Personal Achievement is the most meaningful to him.
A huge boost to his career occurred at age 21 when Wynton Marsalis asked him to join his band. After six years, however, it was time to become a leader. Roberts’ legacy of extraordinary recorded music reflects his artistic versatility. His recordings include works for solo piano, duets with other instrumentalists, and conventional trio arrangements of jazz standards; as well as original material for trio, larger ensembles, and even symphonic compositions. He recorded his arrangement of Gershwin's Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra with the Berlin Philharmonic. He now has his own label and has been prolific releasing numerous and varied projects including a recording of his trio with Béla Fleck.
Roberts has long dedicated himself to the development of young musicians. In acknowledgment of his many contributions to music performance and education, The Juilliard School awarded him an honorary Doctor of Music degree in 2014.
Marcus Roberts – piano
Rodney Jordan – double bass
Jason Marsalis – drums
Funding for South Florida JAZZ is provided in part by a grant from the Broward County Board of County