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Marcus Roberts: Blues For The New Millennium

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Breaking ground as both a performer and a jazz historian of sorts, pianist Marcus Roberts follows 1996’s Portraits In Blue (music by Gershwin and James P. Johnson) with this ambitious project, which pays tribute to the past and looks to the future-all while necessarily being rooted in the present. Supported by a sizable roster of young lions (drummer Jason Marsalis, bassist Thaddeus Expos , trumpeter Marcus Printup, and tenorist Stephent Riley, among others), he references a wide array of jazz styles and at the same time adds his personal stamp, both musically and creatively.

Of the 14 tracks, all were composed by Roberts, the exceptions being a unique reading of Robert Johnson’s “Cross Road” and Jelly Roll Morton’s “Jungle Blues,” spirited performances that authentically conjure the past, but are not without their share of twists. “That Was Then, And This Is Now” serves as a kind of synopsis of the album’s concept, moving from a funereal demeanor to a rollicking romp with an array of blistering solos that lend a decidedly contemporary touch, while “Any Time, Any Place” is the most consistently modern, with bop, modal, and post bop elements. The overall concept aside, the album’s most unifying feature is Roberts’ brilliant playing, which is technically fluent and broad in scope and style.