COMPOSERS: Marcus Roberts Trio
PERFORMER: Marcus Roberts (p), David Grossman (b), Jason Marsalis (d)
CATALOGUE NO: 484451 2
This musical portrait of a romantic relationship could founder on the Scylla of programmatic over-particularisation or the Charybdis of a failure to connect with its subject matter at all, but Marcus Roberts has the musical skill, taste and intelligence to steer a course between the two.
Thus, while the subtle dynamics and nuances of a serious love affair are explored in depth – a tragic theme, for instance, is rearranged and set to a more optimistic tempo to convey growth through shared pain, and the album’s two main leitmotifs are recapitulated in the closing track to signify forward-looking strength drawing on past experience – the overall complexity of the structure never stifles the superb musical freedom and interplay of the trio.
Roberts is a player of almost unmatched technical acumen, steeped in the entire piano jazz tradition from Jelly Roll Morton through Thelonious Monk to Ahmad Jamal and beyond, and he imbues all his music with the intense spirituality of another inspiration, John Coltrane.
His young rhythm section, too, play impeccably throughout, particularly in their solo features. The album, by turns joyously lyrical and unblinkingly tragic, consequently succeeds both as pure jazz piano trio music and as an evocation of the travails and triumphs involved in establishing mutual emotional commitment. CP