Saturday, April 20, 2019

The swinging art of the jazz trio - at its best

Pianist Marcus Roberts made clear his musical agenda right up front. "We believe that a jazz trio should not put you to sleep." And they certainly didn't at a Friday, April 19 concert at in downtown Fort Myers, FL. The event wrapped the 2018-19 jazz concert season at the Sidney & Berne Davis Arts Center.
Marcus Roberts

Roberts made sure his longtime trio mates, bassist Rodney Jordan and drummer Jason Marsalis (the youngest brother in the musical clan from New Orleans), also got plentiful spotlights throughout the evening. Each player's ideas and instincts helped move the music's exploratory direction.

The first set was quite varied as they explored three Roberts original and four other gems from the jazz canon.The originals were "Cole After Midnight," his tip of the hat to Nat King Cole and Cole Porter; the hard-swinger "Perfect Timing"; and "Harvest Time" from his 1996 trio recording Time and Circumstance.

Roberts, Jordan
Rodney Jordan
Roberts and Jordan teamed up for a bass-and-piano duet on "Sweet Georgia Brown" and Jordan was in the spotlight later in the set with a beautiful exploration of "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise." 

Marsalis got a center-stage solo spotlight, playing just his snare drum, on an original piece called "The One Drum Band." At one point, he had seven different rhythms going. After a trio romp through Thelonious Monk's "Blues Five Spot," Roberts treated the audience to a delicate solo piano version of Duke Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss."

Jason Marsalis
The second set was very different - and something quite daring for a jazz trio to pull off. Roberts & Co. performed each tune, in order, from John Coltrane's 1964 Impulse! recording Crescent. This meditative Coltrane suite consisted of the title track, "Wise One," "Bessie's Blues," "Lonnie's Lament" and "The Drum Thing," the latter another fine showcase for Marsalis. The band topped off the evening with an earlier Coltrane piece, the blues "Traneing In," from his 1958 studio album with the Red Garland Trio.

The evening was a lesson in how to draw in an audience with deeply varied individual and group dynamics: the music could shift from bold to the softest, lightest touch in a heartbeat, showcasing the material and the talents of its makers.
Marsalis, Jordan, Roberts
The Marcus Roberts Trio at SBDAC

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