Béla Fleck, banjo
Marcus Roberts, piano
Jason Marsalis, drums
Rodney Jordan, bass
Béla Fleck and Marcus Roberts – two forward-thinking and unique musicians, both top improvisers on their instruments – will join forces for a special concert to kick off the 2012 Blue Note Jazz Festival. The unique mix of banjo and piano creates a new way forward in jazz, deeply rooted in the art form, while pulling from each man's extensive background and musical journey to create a sound that is exuberant, fresh, soaring, and bold. After a one-off concert at the Savannah Music Festival that Afropop Worldwide called "staggering, awe-inspiring," Fleck and Roberts continue their collaboration, bringing it to the Blue Note stage for the first time. Rounding out the group will be Roberts's trio members, bassist Rodney Jordan and drummer Jason Marsalis.
Grammy winner Béla Fleck is often considered the premier banjo player in the world. Awed by the music of Flatt & Scruggs while still in high school, he began experimenting with playing bebop jazz on his banjo, mentored by fellow banjo renegade Tony Trischka. After releasing his 1980 debut Crossing the Tracks, he joined the progressive bluegrass band New Grass Revival in 1982, and in 1989 he formed the genre-busting Flecktones, with members equally talented and adventurous as himself. He has since made a name for himself on countless solo and ensemble projects. Among his latest recordings is Rocket Science (2011) with the Flecktones.
Marcus Roberts, a brilliant pianist and improviser from Jacksonville, Florida, has always been influenced by the early exposure to his mother's gospel singing and the music of his local church. Although he lost his sight at age five, in 1983 he won the Great American Jazz Piano Competition, followed by first prize in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 1987.
In 1985, at age 21, Roberts joined Wynton Marsalis's band and toured and recorded with the trumpeter for the next six years, winning considerable renown as the core of the band's rhythm section. He signed his first recording contract with BMG/Novus in 1988 and completed six recordings for the label before signing with Columbia Records early in 1994. His recording of George Gershwin's signature classic Rhapsody in Blue (1996) with symphony orchestra and jazz band was nominated for a Grammy Award. His most recent release, New Orleans Meets Harlem, Vol. 1, was released on J Master Records in 2009.
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