If simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, then the performance of Marcus Roberts trio at the RNCM is a good example. The trio is composed of classical jazz-trained and Wynton Marsalis-inspired Marcus Roberts at the piano, Rodney Jordan at bass and Jason Marsalis on drums. With a stage presence that is both charismatic and discrete, Roberts assumed his role as a bandleader by introducing the titles of the compositions.
The first part of the concert was dedicated exclusively to Cole Porter songs, as ‘I’ve got you under my skin’ and ‘Night and day’. It was evident from the start that Roberts’ refined, classical piano style blended perfectly with Jordan’s spontaneity and Marsalis’ precision. Their take on the classical jazz repertoire was affectionate, original and harmonious.
In part two, the concert changed the musical trajectory to a more individualised musical performance. The trio switched to their own compositions as ‘Topeka’, ‘Let’s go’ and ‘Marching in the Modern Parade’. The drum solo in ‘Topeka’, a fresh, coherent improvisation was simply breath-taking. ‘Let’s go’ was the only weak point of the concert: the piano seemed confused and uninspired. ‘Marching in the Modern Parade’ was the final touch on the concert: the role of the piano alternated between leading and acting as a background to the ‘duo’: bass and drums.
The strength of the concert was the fact that the trio relied mostly on free improvisation, using the well-established music pieces to add structure. I’d say that the improvisations served both to prevent the audience from sinking in a sentimental nostalgia and to delight that part of the audience which seeks novelty in jazz.
Throughout the concert, it became evident that Marcus Roberts knows how to best showcase the talent of Jordan and Marsalis: their lively improvisations were given structure by the piano. The musical palette the Marcus Roberts trio explored in the concert was intense, engaging and delighted the audience.
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