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Marcus Roberts Charts A Jazz Migration

For his new album 'New Orleans Meets Harlem, Vol. 1' (March 31 / J-Master Records), jazzman Marcus Roberts imagines a musical migration. In his eloquent liner notes, he writes, "We made this recording to show how New Orleans music impacted the music of the later Harlem style and how both impacted all of modern jazz, including our own trio's group sound." The compositions come from the desks of Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Waller, Scott Joplin, Duke Ellington, and Thelonious Monk plus an original tune by Roberts.

Many of the ragtime-soaked songs are given a modernist twist, trying on different rhythms within the same song, such as in Joplin's "The Entertainer" and Morton's "New Orleans Blues, " which transitions from a New Orleans vibe then moves forward through the history of jazz.

The album's version of Joplin's "A Real Slow Drag" is another highlight. Roberts writes, "'A Real Slow Drag' has a reflective piano intro, followed by a soulful New Orleans groove. The 'B' section is played up-tempo and clearly influenced by Latin rhythms (what Jelly Roll called the 'Spanish tinge')."

The track list is deliberately arranged to show the progressions and interrelations between these titans of composition. He continues, "Quick reflexes and imagination, important skills for any jazz musician, are essential to our trio style."

Roberts closes with his own "Searching for the Blues, " a hard driving tune that evokes 1950s New York before segueing into a Latin-tinged beat. Roberts writes, "This song has four distinct sections that cover a wide variety of musical moods. The first is an up-tempo 12-bar blues in D-flat. The second builds to a feverish pitch and then resolves to a calm and reflective section three that is anchored by Roland's low ostinato groove and Jason's warm Trinidad-based groove. The piano weaves together various themes, often played in octaves, leading to the final section that is based on John Coltrane's group concept for his 'classic quartet.'"

'New Orleans Meets Harlem, Vol. 1' will be released online via the digital distributor TuneCore.com.



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