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Release: Immediate

Marcus Roberts Trio performs in University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium Nov. 4

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Jazz pianist Marcus Roberts will bring his trio to the University of Iowa for a concert at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4 in Hancher Auditorium. The Marcus Roberts Trio features Roberts with bassist Roland Guerin and drummer Jason Marsalis.

Roberts will also lead a master class for jazz students in the UI School of Music at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 4 in the Opera Rehearsal Room of the Voxman Music Building. The public is invited to observe the master class, free of charge.

The concert will be Roberts' fourth Hancher performance. He first appeared as a sideman with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, returned as the leader of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and presented a duo piano concert with Ellis Marsalis, the patriarch of the Marsalis jazz family.

The Marcus Roberts Trio concert will come one day after the release of Roberts' new Sony Classical CD, "The Joy of Joplin," featuring improvisations based on the compositions of America's best-loved ragtime composer, as well as new Roberts compositions inspired by Joplin's style and refracted through influences of European classical music, blues and swing.

In September Roberts added to his list of acclaimed recordings with the release of "Blues For The New Millennium," a 14-song collection featuring 12 original songs by Roberts as well as a blistering version of Robert Johnson's "Cross Road Blues" and a raucous party rendition of Jelly Roll Morton's "Jungle Blues."

That recording followed the historic, Grammy-nominated "Portraits in Blue," his highly individual piano and orchestra arrangements of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" and James P. Johnson's "Yamekraw." Another Gershwin album, "Gershwin for Lovers," debuted at No. 4 on Billboard's jazz chart in 1994, staying in the Top 10 for almost seven months.

Roberts' most recent trio recording was the 1996 CD "Time and Circumstance," a set of original compositions that was named one of the Top 10 albums of 1996 by Time magazine, the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune.

Roberts says, "My life's work is to present the piano in as many settings as will bring the instrument to greater prominence."

Blind since the age of five, Roberts was first exposed to music in the local church where his mother was a gospel singer. His parents bought a piano when he was eight, and he began nine years of formal training at age 12. Roberts majored in music at Florida State University, and he cites diverse pianists including Art Tatum, Vladimir Ashkenazy, James P. Johnson and Mary Lou Williams as early influences.

Aspiring to a career in jazz, Roberts won several statewide competitions and then, in 1982 in Chicago, he won the competition at the annual convention of the National Association of Jazz Educators, where he met Ellis Marsalis. Wynton Marsalis heard Roberts play at the convention and the trumpeter asked his father to have Roberts contact him.

As he took the young pianist under his wing, Marsalis went on to have a profound influence on Roberts' artistic development. By 1985, their relationship had evolved to the point where Marsalis invited Roberts to take over the piano chair in his quartet vacated by Kenny Kirkland. Roberts was surprised by the opportunity, but so was Marsalis: By the time the pianist joined the ensemble, he had learned its entire repertoire from tapes.

Roberts maintained a busy touring schedule with Marsalis from 1985 to 1991 and appeared on virtually all the trumpeter's jazz recordings made during that period.

Roberts continued to garner awards, including the $10,000 first prize at the first Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 1987. He enjoyed the distinction of being the first jazz musician to have his first three recordings reach No. 1 on Billboard's traditional jazz chart.

Roberts has toured the U.S. and Europe as a soloist, as well as with his septet and trio. He is active as an educator, conducting seminars and clinics throughout the United States. Roberts also has a special interest in working with the blind and has recently contributed his time to projects with The Lighthouse and the American Foundation for the Blind, two nationally recognized organizations for the vision-impaired.

Jazz at Lincoln Center, the producer of the Marcus Roberts Trio tour, has also been one of his on-going commitments. One of the highlights of the summer '93 Classical Jazz Series at Lincoln Center was the debut of Roberts' ambitious 70-minute "Romance, Swing and the Blues," described by the New York Post as "a rich, life-filled, and quite absorbing extended work."

In April of 1994 he kicked off a year largely devoted to the work of Gershwin with a performance as a soloist with the American Symphony Orchestra of "'I Got Rhythm' Variations" at an Avery Fisher Hall show titled "Common Ground: Jazz, African-American and Jewish Composers (1930-1955)." The New York Times said of the performance, "The Gershwin, with splendidly vivacious piano solos played by Marcus Roberts, lifted the evening and banished politics."

Learn more about Marcus Roberts on the Columbia Records World Wide Web site at

Eye Surgeon's Associates, P.C., is the corporate sponsor of the Marcus Roberts Trio concert, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Tickets for the Marcus Roberts Trio are $26, $23 and $20. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount, and Zone 3 tickets are available to UI students for $10. Tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

For information on UI arts events, visit