BÉLA FLECK is often considered the premier banjo player in the world. A New York City native, he picked up the banjo at age 15 after being awed by the bluegrass music of Flatt & Scruggs. While still in high school he began experimenting with playing bebop jazz on his banjo, mentored by fellow banjo renegade Tony Trischka. In 1980, he released his first solo album, Crossing the Tracks, with material that ranged from straight ahead bluegrass to Chick Corea’s “Spain.” In 1982, Fleck joined the progressive bluegrass band New Grass Revival, making a name for himself on countless solo and ensemble projects ever since as a virtuoso instrumentalist. In 1989 he formed the genre-busting Flecktones, with members equally talented and adventurous as himself.
THE MARCUS ROBERTS TRIO, led by Roberts on piano, Jason Marsalis on drums and Rodney Jordan on bass, are keen torch-holders of the classic jazz tradition. The mix of these four,— Roberts, Fleck, Jordan, Marsalis—create a new way forward in jazz, deeply rooted in the form, while pulling from the extensive backgrounds and music journeys of all the members—creating stellar performances that are exuberant, fresh, soaring, bold, and, of course, eclectic.
The Marcus Roberts Trio is known for its virtuosic style – a style that is strongly rhythmic, melodic, and filled with dynamic contrast. This trio has an entirely new approach to jazz trio performance. The group was founded in 1995, and 15 years later, they are known around the world for their signature trio style. Roberts’ vision of the jazz trio grew rapidly following the selection of drummer Jason Marsalis for the drum chair in 1994 (when Jason was just 17). Bassist Rodney Jordan is the most recent addition to the trio and his profound musical intelligence has already left its mark on the trio’s sound.
Although the piano is typically the focus of most jazz trios, in the Marcus Roberts Trio, all musicians share equally in shaping the direction of the music through changing its tempo, mood, texture, or form, through a system of musical cues. As a result, each trio member’s enormous individual talent is showcased along with the powerfully rhythmic group sound. This has led more than a few concert goers to comment that it sounds like a lot more than three people up there on the stage! One of the most enjoyable aspects of a Marcus Roberts Trio concert is that it is so apparent to the audience that these three musicians are really having fun playing together.
Roberts’ current focus is on expanding their unique trio format to larger ensembles (ranging from quartet to septet, octet and larger). In this way, all musicians on the stage will use their quick musical reflexes and creative imaginations to improvise freely as individuals and as a group while maintaining the same powerfully rhythmic group sound.
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