FSU jazz professor to world premiere Duke Ellington works at Carnegie Hall

Marcus Roberts, associate professor of jazz studies
Marcus Roberts, associate professor of jazz piano

A Florida State University jazz professor will world premiere his new arrangements of Duke Ellington’s later orchestral works alongside the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Marcus Roberts, associate professor of jazz piano, will perform Ellington’s “New World A-Comin’” and “Three Black Kings” for Jazz Trio and Large Orchestra. The performance will take place at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 12.

Roberts is known for his groundbreaking arrangements of Gershwin’s orchestral works and his two original piano concertos that authentically integrate jazz and classical styles. He has performed these pieces all over the world over the past 25 years and is widely known as “the genius of the modern piano.” He is also known for the creation of an entirely new approach to jazz trio performance.

Ellington, an American jazz pianist, composer and bandleader, frequently played in Carnegie Hall, premiering many of his greatest works, including “Black, Brown and Beige” and “Night Creature.”

Roberts was thrilled when the American Symphony Orchestra first contacted him about performing with them and re-arranging some of Ellington’s orchestral music for its special Carnegie Hall program honoring Duke Ellington. It was partly because of Ellington’s music that Roberts chose a career in jazz music.

“Duke Ellington’s role in jazz music is comparable to that of Bach and Beethoven in classical music,” Roberts said. “Ellington wrote many suites of music, hundreds of great songs, sacred music, vocal music, dance music, and even soundtracks. He made important innovations and contributions to jazz music during every decade of his adult life. And if that wasn’t enough, he was a great pianist as well.”

For these new arrangements, Roberts will be joined by some of the greatest musicians in jazz today, including FSU Professor of Jazz Studies Rodney Jordan on bass, drummer Jason Marsalis and trombonist Ron Westray. Marsalis and Westray have played with Roberts for more than 25 years. In addition, three FSU graduates of the jazz studies program will be featured in the concert — Alphonso Horne (trumpet), Ricardo Pascal (tenor saxophone), and Joe Goldberg (alto saxophone/clarinet).

Marcus Roberts Trio which includes Marcus Roberts, Rodney Jordan and Jason Marsalis
The Marcus Roberts Trio which includes Marcus Roberts, Rodney Jordan and Jason Marsalis

Jordan, who joined the FSU faculty in 2001, has performed and recorded with some of America’s finest jazz musicians.

“We are all extremely excited to have this opportunity to play in a prestigious hall with a great symphony orchestra,” Jordan said. “It is always special to premiere new arrangements. You don’t hear that every day. I am personally honored to be a participant.”

The Marcus Roberts Trio, which includes Roberts and Jordan, also will perform some of their own arrangements of Ellington’s songs and will be joined by the two-time Grammy-winning jazz vocalist, Catherine Russell.

For more information, visit AmericanSymphony.org/duke-ellington/.