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Marcus Roberts: The Joy of Joplin

A bandstand encounter with pianist Marcus Roberts can be a study in deep dignity and obvious earnestness, though he is reputed to be quite the character in personal encounters. Both sides of Marcus Roberts intersect on this solo program of eight of Scott Joplin’s gems, and eight Roberts originals in the Joplin tradition. The familiar “The Entertainer” opens the program, and Roberts invests the piece with a jaunty tempo, figurative bowler hat cocked to the side, cane tapping lively, ready for fun. Roberts strolls this one and grants it an improvisational touch that separates it from its customary treatments. He envelopes “Maple Leaf Rag” in an equal sense of frolic. In fact, though Roberts addresses Joplin and his originals with serious preparation and reverence, he clearly goes for the fun factor, eliciting the playful attitude Joplin laid between the grooves of so much of his material.

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