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Marcus Roberts and the Modern Jazz Generation: Romance, Swing and the Blues

Marcus Roberts went large with his latest. Financing the project with a Kickstarter campaign, the pianist-composer maintained his loyal trio of bassist Rodney Jordan and drummer Jason Marsalis, called upon tenor saxophonist Stephen Riley, an early cohort, then expanded the ensemble threefold, bringing in eight more horn players to flesh out his ideas. The setup, bursting with that grandiosity that characterized the classic big bands, goes back several decades-the specter of Ellington surfaces often-but Roberts, with no irony in sight, calls his new band the Modern Jazz Generation.

Romance, Swing and the Blues, built around a suite initially commissioned by Jazz at Lincoln Center in 1993, spreads out over two CDs. All of it was written, produced and arranged in its entirety by Roberts, and the solos, save for Roberts’ own, are rationed conservatively; showcasing the individuals takes a backseat to the wholeness of the work.

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