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Roberts, Marcus (Marthaniel)

Roberts, Marcus (Marthaniel)

Roberts, Marcus (Marthaniel) , prodigious young pianist, composer; b. Jacksonville, Fla., Aug. 7, 1963. Blind from birth, he was a winner in the IAJE Young Talent Program in January 1982. He won the Jacksonville piano competition in 1984 and his set was televised. He distinguished himself in Wynton Marsalis’s unit when he replaced Kenny Kirkland in 1985. Roberts has immersed himself in the 1920s music of George Gershwin; his 1995 live versions of “Rhapsody in Blue” included freely improvised cadenzas and additions, and the released album gave solo space to everyone. Though he is also influenced by James P. Johnson and the solo recordings of Thelonious Monk, he seems most free when he plays his own material, which involves unusual phrasing and changing meters. He has led his own trio since the late 1990s. He won the Helen Keller Achievement Award in 1998.


Truth Is Spoken Here (1988); Deep in the Shed (1989); Alone with Three Giants (1990); Prayer for Peace (1991); As Serenity Approaches (1991); If I Could Be with You (1993); Gershwin for Lovers (1994); Marcus Roberts Plays Ellington (1995); Time and Circumstance (1996); Blues for the New Millennium (1997); The Joy of joplin (1998); The Collected Marcus Roberts (1998); In Honor of Duke (1999).

—Lewis Porter

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