While Sides, Colors is not just another piano trio album, it is the trio of Roberta, bassist Johannes Weidenmueller and drummer Billy Mintz that is at the core of the CD. Even in the context of the larger ensembles, their intuitive, conversational interplay is a joy to hear. The trio is the foundation for the sonic landscape that is Sides, Colors.
Roberta turns If I Loved You," by the great Rogers and Hammerstein, into an epic journey for piano trio augmented by winds, strings, and a surprise vocal turn by Roberta. Laurie" is a lushly re-imagined interpretation of the great Bill Evans lovely ballad with the strings and horns supporting Roberta's pensive solo.
Other CD highlights include Degree Absolute," with its piano/organ poly-rhythmic groove; a quirky, swinging trio take on Jule Styne's Make Someone Happy;" a haunting tone poem for four winds and piano entitled Empty House;" Relent," a burning organ duo between Piket and Mintz; and My Friends and Neighbors," an African American spiritual deconstructed into an Ivesian experiment in contrapuntalism. (The latter piece is dedicated to Sam Rivers, with whom Roberta was privileged to associate at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in 2006.)
Grounded in both the modern jazz tradition and the works of the contemporary classical composers she admires, Roberta combines an infectious swing with an adventurous harmonic sense. Her playing, characterized by both a strong sense of direction and a striving for new territory, is at times melodic and pensive, at other times angular and dissonant.
Roberta has played professionally as a sidewoman with David Liebman, Rufus Reid, Michael Formanek, Lionel Hampton, Mickey Roker, Harvey Wainapel, Eliot Zigmund, Benny Golson and the BMI/NY Jazz Orchestra and has twice been a featured guest on Marian McPartlands Piano Jazz, on National Public Radio. She has also performed with some of the most interesting musicians in European and American creative music, including drummers Klaus Kugel and Billy Mintz, and saxophonists Petras Vysniauskas and Roby Glod and Louie Belogenis. A gifted composer as well, Roberta was a finalist in the Thelonious Monk BMI Composers Competition.
As pianist Mike Garson points out in his liner notes, Sides, Colors maintains the essence of the great jazz trios in history, while expanding the format to greater heights and carving much new territory. This is the true spirit of jazz and how the music is supposed to continually unfold.