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Marcus Roberts: “All Kinds of Things”

At 50, the pianist is as resourceful and ambitious as ever

Marcus Roberts

“We were talking, the [Jazz at Lincoln Center] Orchestra, about who we consider to be a genius,” laughs Wynton Marsalis. “I said someone was a genius and cats were laughing at it. So I said, ‘All right, then, who do you consider a genius?’ And the cats said, ‘Marcus Roberts.'”

If anyone is aware of Roberts’ brilliance, it’s Marsalis; after all, he first made his mark in the trumpeter’s band from 1985 to 1991. Ask Roberts, though, and he’s simply a hard-working artist, even if his profile on the jazz landscape isn’t what it once was, despite efforts like his 2012 disc with Béla Fleck, Across the Imaginary Divide, and the nonet recording Deep in the Shed: A Blues Suite, released that same year. “To some folks it may have appeared like I haven’t been doing a lot over these last years,” the pianist and composer, 50, says on the phone from his home in Tallahassee. A native Floridian, Roberts is a jazz studies professor at Florida State University. “Maybe the sense was that I was just walking my dog every day at 5 o’clock and wasn’t really doing much. But quite to the contrary, I’m always working-on all kinds of things.”

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