Blues for the New Millennium

COMPOSERS: Marcus Roberts
LABELS: Columbia
ALBUM TITLE: Marcus Roberts
PERFORMER: Roberts (p); Marcus Printup, Randall Haywood (t), Ronald Westray, Vincent Gardner (tb); Sherman Irby (as); Isa Abdul-Hamid (ss, ts); Stephen Riley (ts), Ted Nash (c, flute, bs), etc
CATALOGUE NO: CK 68637 (distr. Sony Jazz)

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Pianist Marcus Roberts came to prominence with Wynton Marsalis’s band, and many of the blues-based originals on this elegant recording emulate the clean, sweet, airy swing of the trumpeter’s music. Like his former leader, too, Roberts is imbued with an unpretentiously learned interest in, and respect for, jazz history, and this album begins with rich, sensuous readings of country blues pioneer Robert Johnson’s ‘Cross Road Blues’ and Jelly Roll Morton’s ‘Jungle Blues’.

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From there on, though, all the pieces are Roberts’s compositions, and they draw vigorous but tasteful performances from a sparky band including trumpeter Marcus Printup and yet another Marsalis, drummer Jason. The latest in a series of polished, thoughtful, but thoroughly entertaining albums from a sophisticated original. Chris Parker