FORT MYERS, Fla. (Oct. 11, 2023) – The Southwest Florida Symphony, Lee County’s only professional orchestra and fourth oldest in the state, is thrilled to announce the Marcus Roberts Trio will join the symphony for “American Classical” on Saturday, Nov. 4. A fusion of Masterworks and Brave New Pops, the concert will seamlessly blend jazz and classical traditions. The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers.

Conducted by Maestro Radu Paponiu, the symphony and the Marcus Roberts Jazz Trio will perform an exclusive jazz arrangement of “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin in honor of the piece’s 100th anniversary. The exciting program will showcase other iconic pieces including Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and “Four Episodes” from “Rodeo,” John Williams’ “Star Wars Suite” and Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances” from “West Side Story.”

As part of the symphony’s signature series, patrons will also have the opportunity to attend an exclusive pre-concert lecture prior to the show led by Roberts and Paponiu, including a Q&A session, to enhance the concert experience and provide insights into the pieces being performed. The lecture begins at 6:30 p.m.

The Marcus Roberts Trio is a long-term musical partnership between renowned pianist and composer Roberts, the phenomenal drummer Jason Marsalis and gifted bassist Rodney Jordan. Known for their virtuosic style and entirely new approach to jazz trio performance, the group equally shares in shaping the direction of the music by changing its tempo, mood, texture or form at any time – with lightning quick musical reflexes and creative imagination taking over the stage. Driven by a belief in “letting the music take over,” the result is a powerful sound filled with rhythmic, harmonic and dynamic contrast.

Roberts has been hailed as “the genius of the modern piano”. In 2014, the celebrated CBS News television show, 60 Minutes, profiled his life and work on a segment entitled “The Virtuoso”.  The show traced Roberts’ life to date from his early roots in Jacksonville and at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind to his remarkable career as a modern jazz musician. He began teaching himself to play piano at age five after losing his sight but didn’t have his first formal lesson until age 12. At age 18, he went on to study classical piano at Florida State University with the great Leonidas Lipovetsky, whose own teacher was the celebrated Madame Rosina Lhévinne.

Roberts has won numerous awards and competitions over the years, including the coveted Helen Keller Award for Personal Achievement. While being known for his remarkable ability to blend jazz and classical idioms to create something completely different, he may be even better known for his development of an entirely new approach to jazz trio performance. Roberts’ critically-acclaimed legacy of recorded music reflects this tremendous artistic versatility, which includes solo piano, duets and trio arrangements of jazz standards as well as original suites of music for trio, large ensembles and symphony orchestra. His popular DVD recording with the Berlin Philharmonic showcases his ground-breaking arrangement of Gershwin’s “Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra.”

In addition to his renown as a performer, Roberts is also an accomplished composer who has received numerous commissioning awards, including ones from Chamber Music America, Jazz at Lincoln Center, ASCAP, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Savannah Music Festival who co-commissioned him to write his first piano concerto. Roberts has been dedicated to the training and development of younger musicians throughout his career. Each year, he returns to the Savannah Music Festival where he serves as an Associate Artistic Director as well as the Director of the annual Swing Central Jazz programs that bring high school students from all over the country to Savannah for educational programs and a band competition. Roberts is also an associate professor of music at the School of Music at Florida State University and holds an honorary doctor of music degree from The Juilliard School.

Jordan, a native of Memphis, Tennessee, grew up playing bass in church which created the foundation for his rich and soulful sound. Jordan studied classical upright bass at Jackson State University and has served as assistant principal bassist and principal bassist with leading state and regional orchestras throughout Mississippi and Georgia. While living in Atlanta, Jordan became one of the city’s most sought-after jazz bassists, performing and recording with some of America’s finest jazz musicians, including Marcus Printup, Mulgrew Miller, James Williams, Milt Jackson, George Coleman and Russell Gunn. Jordan joined the faculty at Florida State University in 2001, where he now serves as an associate professor of jazz studies. It was there that Jordan and Roberts first played together, while working to train young aspiring musicians. Jordan joined the Marcus Roberts trio in 2009, and he quickly became known for his virtuosity, quick reflexes and musical wit. His hard-swinging style has earned him the nickname Rodney “Swing” Jordan, which perfectly complements Roberts’ melodic, blues-based, rhythmically syncopated improvisational group style.

Marsalis is the youngest son of pianist and music educator Ellis Marsalis. At age seven, he was sitting in with his father’s jazz group and progressed so rapidly as a drummer that his father started using him for some of his own engagements. Shortly after graduation from New Orleans Center for Creative Arts in 1995, Marsalis joined the Marcus Roberts trio while attending Loyola University in New Orleans. His skill at the drum set has been a critical part of the sound and philosophy of the trio for many years, and he has been featured on all of Roberts’ recordings for nearly 25 years. Additionally, he tours playing vibraphone in his quartet and releases recordings both on vibes and on drums. His most recent recording, “Melody Reimagined, Book 1,” was critically acclaimed in the jazz world. In recent years, Marsalis has also become increasingly known for his own educational contributions as a frequent teacher at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts and a key member of The Modern Jazz Generation group.

To purchase tickets or learn more, visit swflso.org/tickets/.

The Southwest Florida Symphony made its debut as a community orchestra on April 15, 1961, playing in schools and community centers, with a roster of only 24 volunteer musicians. Today, the symphony boasts a roster of 70 world-class professional musicians and is Lee County’s only fully professional orchestra and fourth oldest in the state. The Southwest Florida Symphony’s 63rd year continues the orchestra’s tradition of artistic excellence and innovation as Music Director Maestro Radu Paponiu leads another season of spectacular performances. Maestro Paponiu, the sixth music director in the organization’s history, also serves as the associate conductor and youth orchestra director for the Naples Philharmonic in addition to guest-conducting with orchestras throughout the United States and Europe.

For more information about the Southwest Florida Symphony, upcoming season performances and subscription and ticketing information, visit swflso.org or call 239-418-1500.

Contacts:

Amy Ginsburg, Southwest Florida Symphony, 239-418-0996, aginsburg@swflso.org Angela Bell, Gravina, Smith, Matte & Arnold Marketing and PR, 239-275-5758, Angela@gsma.pro