The sun does not dictate my slumber, my body does. My unintentional affinity for the early morning hours has brought me great gifts. Sometimes it’s like waiting for the dust and din of the day to settle so I can see what’s really there once everything folds into silence.
On one of those nights I was flipping through channels aimlessly when I ran into Marcus Roberts. Actually, it was what I had heard that stopped me. It sounded like someone had done a mash-up not of a few tracks but a mash-up of separate genres. There was a live orchestra spread out before your typical white-haired, bespectacled, almost Einsteinian conductor jerking around mechanically with his baton. But, even further towards the front of the stage sat a little trio: a percussionist, a bassist and a pianist.
They had taken a classicial song that I did not recognize and were alternating between each genres interpretations of it before playing simultaneously together with surprisingly melodice results. The most remarkable part of the performance, though, was the pianist. He was given a solo near the last fourth of the piece and spent a few moments calmly and humbly showing everyone what a virtuoso sounds like. The best part, however, was the end of the performance when Marcus Roberts stood up and gave a modest bow before being escorted him off of the stage. The man was blind.
From what I gather, his story kind of plays out in the same way as Jesus’: His birth was noted and not much else between that was recorded until he was a young man. By the age of five Roberts had completely lost all of his vision. Skip to his college career where he studied at Florida State University and was hand-picked by famed trumpeter Wynton Marsalis as his pianist when Roberts was only 22. After studying under Marsalis, Roberts began releasing his own records.
With a little research, I was able to recover the video which shows plenty of footage I missed by jumping in the middle. With more research I found out that this was an entirely improvised performance by the Marcus Roberts Trio. You might be able to see or hear traces of that. There’s one part where he’s playing and you can see his drummer and bassist watching and listening intensely to go back into a tune they recognize so that they can join him.
I encourage you to watch the other parts of this three-part series as I’m just dumping you in the middle of the performance. If you get bored, just skip in about seven minutes to see the cliffnotes version on his talent and keep in mind that he was improvising:
“Rhapsody In Blue” played by the Marcus Roberts Trio [2/3]