ASC presents Marcus Roberts Trio in The Essentials with Eric Essix

The Essentials is a new, innovative Alys Stephens Center series devoted to honoring the rich history of jazz music and bringing the best artists in contemporary jazz to Birmingham.

eric essix webEric EssixThe Marcus Roberts Trio will kick off The Essentials: Ragtime and Early New Orleans Jazz, a new performance series created by the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center.

The Essentials is a new, innovative series devoted to honoring the rich history of jazz music and bringing the best artists in contemporary jazz to Birmingham. Over the next three years, the ASC, along with host and UAB Artist-in-Residence Eric Essix, will take audiences on a journey from the birth of jazz through today’s most innovative artists with performances and educational activities. This season, The Essentials will begin by showcasing ragtime and early New Orleans jazz, hosted by Essix and featuring music performed by the Marcus Roberts Trio, alongside local jazz artists.

The concert is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, April 10, in UAB’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center, 1200 10th Ave. South. Tickets are $38.50. Student tickets are available. For tickets, call 205-975-2787 or visit

The first set will take audiences through the history, music and artists of the inaugural era of jazz. The second set will feature the highly acclaimed original music and repertoire of the Marcus Roberts Trio. Roberts has received praise from the legendary Wynton Marsalis, who, when discussing Roberts, has said, “We call him ‘the genius of modern piano,’ because he is.”

The Marcus Roberts TrioThe Marcus Roberts TrioAccording to the MRT website, Roberts’ current focus is on expanding his unique trio format to larger ensembles, ranging from quartet to septet, octet and larger. The goal is to allow all musicians on stage to use their musical reflexes and creative imaginations to improvise freely, as individuals and as a group, while maintaining the same powerfully rhythmic group sound. This concept works perfectly with the ASC’s The Essentials series.

The goal of the series is to educate people about the history and importance of this truly American art form, Essix says.

“This is especially important for young people who may just view jazz as ‘old’ music and who often don’t understand how much the music has contributed to all other genres and styles of music,” Essix said.

The performances will be educational in nature for the first half, while the second half will feature the artist doing his own music with his own band, Essix says. This means fans can see artists performing in a context they may not be used to seeing them in — which is exciting — but they will also give people a set of music with which they are familiar.

ArtPlay will present a Meet the Artist school show, musician clinic and mentoring program. The Essentials coincides with the 2014 UAB Jazz Summit, April 10-12, presented by the UAB Department of Music.