Festival Guest Artists

Marcus Roberts

Marcus Roberts Trio

In a 2014 issue of Jazz Times, Michael West wrote of Marcus Roberts: “His combination of talent, ambition, discipline, stylistic openness and resourcefulness suggest that he is a remarkable musician—perhaps even a Phenomenon…” According to Roberts, however, he is just honored to be a part of a phenomenal trio—one that is grounded in his long-term musical partnership with drummer Jason Marsalis (who took over the drum chair in 1994) combined with the gifted musicianship of bassist Rodney Jordon, whose profound musical intelligence has left its mark on the trio since joining the group in 2009.

The Marcus Roberts Trio is known for its virtuosic style and entirely new approach to jazz trio performance.  While most jazz trios have the piano front and center, all members of the Marcus Roberts Trio share equally in shaping the direction of the music by changing its tempo, mood, texture, or form at any time. And they do this with lightning quick musical reflexes and creative imaginations. The trio is known for having almost telepathic communication on the stage.  And more than a few concert goers have been heard to say that it sounds like a lot more than three people up there on the stage!

The Marcus Roberts Trio believes in ‘letting the music take over’ and the result is a powerfully rhythmic and melodic sound that is filled with dynamic contrast. One of the most enjoyable aspects of watching this trio perform is that it is so evident that these three musicians are really having fun playing together.

“One way Roberts individualizes his sound is by utilizing orchestral devices initially borrowed from the Ahmad Jamal Trio. In the course of a single piece, he constantly modulates grooves, tempos and keys, plays separate time signatures with the right hand and the left, and, as he puts it, “flips around the roles of the piano, bass and drums by giving everyone an equal opportunity to develop the concepts and themes, to change the form, to get us where we’re getting ready to go.” -Ted Panken, Jazziz Magazine, 2014

The Modern Jazz Generation

Jason Marsalis
Jason Marsalis
Rodney Jordan
Rodney Jordan

Pianist Marcus Roberts along with his trio members, Jason Marsalis (drums) and Rodney Jordan (bass), founded the Modern Jazz Generation in 2013 but its roots go back much further. This band is based on the principle of mentoring that was such a critical part of the evolution of jazz. Older jazz musicians have always worked with and mentored younger musicians on the stage. Mentoring and education are both critical parts of Marcus Roberts’ musical mission and this new band has been a part of the realization of that mission.

History of the Band

Marcus Roberts and Jason Marsalis have been playing together regularly since 1994 when Jason was only 17 years old. At that time, Roland Guerin was the bassist for the trio and the group became widely known for their totally new style of playing that was powerfully rhythmic and melodic. The group integrated and developed a style of collective improvisation that was as fascinating to watch as it was to hear. When Roberts joined the faculty of Florida State University in 2004, he first had the opportunity to play with bassist/jazz instructor, Rodney Jordan. In 2009, Jordan became a regular member of the Marcus Roberts Trio. Tenor saxophonist, Stephen Riley, first played in Marcus Roberts’ band at age 19, in 1995. He is a creative and soulful player who has been an important mentor to all of the younger members of the group. These four musicians have served as the core group of senior musicians for the Modern Jazz Generation.

Marcus Printup (trumpet) and Ron Westray (trombone), both of whom were critical to the Romance, Swing, and the Blues recording project, have also had a long association with Marcus Roberts. Roberts began mentoring each of them individually in 1991. Randall Haywood is the newest member of the band. He first played with Roberts in 1996 when he was in high school and he was a part of Roberts’ Blues for the New Millennium recording project in the late 1990s. During that time, Printup also served as a mentor for young Haywood. In turn, Haywood has taught and mentored the next generation of musicians, two of whom are key members of The Modern Jazz Generation—Alphonso Horne and Corey Wilcox.

Joining the core group of musicians is an extended family of senior musicians who support the same mission and who may join the group for selected shows and who have provided important mentoring advice. These include such musicians as Terrell Stafford (trumpet), Wycliffe Gordon (trombone), Jeff Clayton (saxophone), Dave Stryker (guitar), and others. All of these musicians have been touring and recording professionally for many years and the Modern Jazz Generation’s philosophy is that all of the members of the group, younger and older, will benefit enormously from that collective experience.

The Modern Jazz Generation incorporates a core group of very talented younger musicians at the beginning of their careers: Ricardo Pascal (tenor and soprano saxophones), Joe Goldberg (clarinet and alto saxophone), Tissa Khosla (baritone and tenor saxophones), Corey Wilcox (trombone/tuba), and Alphonso Horne and Tim Blackmon (trumpets). Others will join them at times.

dayna24Dayna Stephens, tenor saxophone

Dayna Stephens is an American jazz saxophonist and composer. In addition to leading his own group Stephens has performed extensively with Kenny Barron, Ambrose Akinmusire, Taylor Eigsti, Julian Lage, Eric Harland, Gerald Clayton, and many other contemporaries. Stephens’s albums include The Timeless Now (2007), Today Is Tomorrow (2012), That Nepenthetic Place (2013), I’ll Take My Chances (2013), and Peace (2014). Stephen Peace, features guitarist Julian Lage, pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Larry Grenadier, and drummer Eric Harland. Stephens grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and attended Berkeley High School. He went on to study at the Berklee School of Music and later at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. Dayna was also mentored by Bay Area saxophonist Robert Stewart and pianist Ed Kelly.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Jazz Faculty

Jim Ketch, Director of Jazz Studies, Professor of Music

Stephen Anderson, Associate Professor of Jazz Studies, Composition, Jazz Piano

David Garcia, Associate Professor Ethnomusiclogy, Charanga Carolina

Juan Álamo, Assistant Professor of Music, Percussion, World Music, Jazz Vibes and Marimba

Ed Paolantonio, Lecturer Jazz Piano and Combos

Jason Foureman, Adjunct Jazz Bass and Combos

Dan Davis, Adjunct Jazz Drumset and Combos

Aaron Hill, Adjunct Jazz Saxophone

Scott Sawyer, Adjunct Jazz Guitar

UNC Featured Ensembles

UNC Faculty Jazz Ensemble

UNC Jazz Band

Charanga Carolina

UNC Jazz Combos