Thoroughly steeped in jazz (and classical) history, pianist-composer Marcus Roberts regularly taps tradition and his own vibrant imagination to create luminous, timeless music that spans generations. A Jacksonville native, Roberts was 21 when he joined the band of jazz's most prominent traditionalist, Wynton Marsalis, and played with him for a half-dozen years before moving on to a versatile career that has run the gamut from solo and small-group performance to big bands and philharmonics. Roberts's superb, longstanding trio (Roland Guerin on bass, Jason Marsalis on drums) last month released New Orleans Meets Harlem, Volume 1 (J-Master), a remarkable, fresh perspective on jazz evolution as stretched from Jelly Roll Morton and Scott Joplin through Fats Waller to Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and the 21st century at large. Each nugget the trio tackles is alive with shifting tempos and moods, while surprises are unveiled in succession as if the pieces were blooming. This occurs most spectacularly on Joplin's ragtime standard "The Entertainer." It kicks off with a melodic Marsalis drum solo and angular variation of the main theme by Roberts and Guerin, moves through a dazzling array of references—stride, swing, bop—and passes through moments of lovely lyricism while Roberts offers a scintillating modern jaunt as its centerpiece. This will be a solo Roberts performance, but promises to be just as ear-opening. $25 at 7 p.m.; $18 at 9:30 p.m.
Sun., May 17, 7 & 9:30 p.m., 2009