Portraits In Blue

Portraits In Blue

From the opening measures, it’s clear that pianist Marcus Roberts’ take on George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue goes well outside of Ferde Grof’s beloved orchestration. Banjoist James Chirillo provides an a cappella introduction, playing a short variation on Rhapsody's second theme prior to Ted Nash taking up the familiar siren’s call on clarinet. The instrumentation confirms Roberts’ unique approach: The Orchestra of St. Luke’s and The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra are joined by his then-triomates Roland Guerin (contrabass) and Jason Marsalis (drums), as well as second pianist Loston Harris II. There are rearranged passages that recall the great Duke Ellington big-band horn sections and others that evoke a New Orleans second-line parade. Roberts draws on the history of early jazz piano, including stride and proto-gospel styles, when he plays the credenzas on James P. Johnson’s Yamekraw (originally written for Fats Waller) and Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm" Variations.

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