Troy Roberts Nu-Jive Perspective Review
By: Griff Stevens
Saxophonist, Troy Roberts has steadily been on an uprising trajectory. His passion and drive have never been in question, graduating with a Bachelor of Music at the young age of 19, it was evident from the start his drive was only going to increase and with it his prowess. Fast forward, two Grammy nominations, extensive touring with some of the greatest jazz artists of today including Joey DeFrancesco’s new quartet, ‘The People’, Joey DeFrancesco Trio, The Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts Quartet, and guest appearances with artist like Aretha Franklin, Van Morrison, Christian McBride, Sammy Figueroa, Dave Douglas and Kurt Elling. Roberts is currently celebrating his eight record as a leader, Nu-Jive Perspective (Inner Circle Music).
Roberts collaborates on this album with long time compatriots: Tim Jago: guitar; Silvano Monasterios: keyboard; Eric England: bass; and Dave Chiverton: drums. It is his third album with this configuration and a departure from his straight-ahead albums previously released on Inner Circle Music. The music focuses on Roberts original compositions, an eclectic, yet head-bopping potion of Soul, Funk, R&B and Gospel music.
“Slideshow” starts with an intoxicating funk styled melody with England and Chiverton laying down a feel that is simply put, amazing. Roberts composition offer a complexity yet are easily accessible by the listener. One hardly notices the intricate rhythmic shifts and multiple sectioned forms because the music flows seamlessly and naturally. Roberts’ solo is passionate and covers the entire register of his horn. His tone is robust, his rhythm is in the pocket and popping with articulations that drive his lines and he spins out colorful melodies. England takes a fine bass solo that leads to Monasterios’ solos statement. Both have clear melodies and build energy. Roberts gives his band plenty of space to make their own musical statements, a mark of a true leader. Roberts’ and Jago’s playing of the melody make for a full sound. The result is another outstanding compositional vehicle for Roberts and Nu-Jive. This band is building their catalog and own musical language and its exciting and fitting of today’s sound.
With his saxophone running a synth controller, Roberts states the melody for “Jack the Sipper.” Roberts is wonderful at building melodic lines and melodies that are relaxed and developmental of time in a logical manner. If the melody did not have equal spaces to notes, it would not be nearly as effective, and Roberts knows this. Roberts also knows how to build a solo, and “Jack the Sipper” is an outstanding example of the power this saxophonist poses. Just when you think he has hit a plateau, he builds the solo again, always playing with power and confidence. Jago gets a seldom heard solo spot, his lines are rich and transported in a warmly distorted tone. His use of double-stops is very effective and the band is right with him as he takes his solo to a climax. Roberts is a versatile player that obviously know the tradition of jazz, but he has an ear for possibilities and the ability to clearly and masterfully express what he is hearing.
Roberts is quickly establishing himself as one of the leading saxophonists on the modern scene. His versatility and command in the varying styles is notable. Roberts is not defined by the genre, rather he defines the genre he presents on any given recording. His tone is immediately recognizable as is his competence and fiery delivery. Not since Joshua Redman has there been a saxophonist so versatile in the many facets of the jazz idiom in modern times. Not to say Roberts and Redman sound alike, as Roberts certainly has his own distinctive sound that has razor sharp edges and a round and warm tonal bite. More so, it is his ability to easily convey in any given genre that is put in front of him, this can also be distinctly heart on the recent Morrison recordings he has contributed to. Roberts is emerging as a top-shelf answer in today’s jazz landscape.