Just the Facts, Please

Marcus Roberts' debut solo album, The Truth is Spoken Here, is sure to go down in the gospel of Jazz as one of the medium's great albums.

Roberts is a pianist who shows a great deal of style and talent. He began his career when he took his place in Wynton Marsalis' quintet immediately after finishing college. The Jacksonville, Florida native appeared on a few of Marsalis' albums including J Mood, Marsalis Standard Time: Volume I and Live At Blues Alley before he decided to go solo.

The Truth Is Spoken Here

By Marcus Roberts

Marthaniel Records, 1988

On Truth, Roberts combines some classic tunes by artists like Duke Ellington and Thelonious S. Monk, as well as new tunes that he has created himself. Even on these new melodies the influence of jazz greats such as John Coltrane are evident. In essence, he borrows from the old and expands on that to formulate songs that are delightful to the ear.

"Blue Monk," a tune originally done by Monk, is recreated on this album in fine style. This version of the song contains all the hard-driving, swinging beats that Monk intended it to, but Roberts gives "Blue Monk" a more modern style. He manages to capture that element of funky jazz that Monk did so well, but has modified the piece slightly, making it his own.

On the Ellington classic, "In A Mellow Tone," Roberts features the tantalizing tenor saxophone of Charles Rouse. This piece is another upbeat number, and Roberts skillfully uses the breaks that were characteristically Ellington to heighten the light and lively feeling of the piece.

Roberts and Rouse manage to complement each other well on this tune. Robert supplies just the right amount of light chord action when Rouse, who played with Monk in the 1960s, give his instrument his all. In addition, the bassist, Reginald Veal, also does a bang up job. Veal, who is currently a member of the Marsalis quintet, not only blends well with Roberts and Rouse, but he successfully explores a wide variety of interesting themes during his solo.

The quality of this LP is only magnified by the six other original tunes that Roberts has chosen to put on the album.

He clearly designed "The Arrival," which is the first cut on this album to showcase the vast talents of trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. The meat of the piece is an offbeat dialogue between the dulcet tones of Marsalis' muted trumpet and the strong chords of Roberts' piano. The mood in this song is a light, happy one, reminiscent of Coltrane in parts. But the tone is definitely more mellow than some of the other cuts on this album.

"The Single Petal of A Rose" further demonstrates Roberts' versatility as a performer. On this piece he combines the influences of both jazz and classical music. The song takes on a very dramatic, heavy tone due to Roberts' piano. "Rose" provides a nice contrast to other more light and snappy tunes on the album.

The song which most clearly heralds Roberts talent is the title track, "The Truth Is Spoken Here." This bluesy-type number features the soulful combo of Marsalis' trumpet and Todd Williams' tenor sax. Roberts' thoughtful piano, though, is the thread that holds the piece together. It is as if Roberts walks a rope with his piano keys. He totters between complete honesty and halftruths; the tension between the two is felt in his playing and gives great depth to the piece.

Without a doubt, Roberts has assembled a great collection of tunes on this album. And the truth is that The Truth Is Spoken Here screams of talent and finesse.