Troy Roberts, Green Lights Review


Troy Roberts, Green Lights Review

by Jeff Becker

Troy-Roberts-Green-Lights-CDIn the lush, ever-evolving landscape of modern jazz, few artists manage to encapsulate its rich history and express forward concepts with as much grace and vivacity as Troy Roberts. His latest offering, Green Lights, is brimming with a fine mixture of straight-ahead and innovative compositions, all penned by Roberts. This album, marking Roberts’ sixteenth venture as a leader, stands out for its musical flow of a narrative that weaves through this combining of past and present in the dynamic and communitive setting of an amazing quartet.

Green Lights’ musical storytelling is guided by the virtuosic hands of Roberts and his ensemble: Paul Bollenback on guitar, John Patitucci on acoustic bass, and Jimmy MacBride on drums. From the very outset, with the title track “Green Lights,” the listener is drawn into an intimate conversation between the musicians. Bollenback’s guitar, warm and resonant, lays a foundation of modern hues, setting the stage for Patitucci’s bass, which growls and purrs with a life of its own. MacBride’s drumming is the heartbeat of the ensemble, fluid, and ever-responsive, propelling the narrative forward. And at the forefront, Roberts’ tenor saxophone sings, a voice full of warmth, depth, and expression, creating a feeling that is at once deeply personal and universally resonant.

The album navigates through a series of musical landscapes, each piece a chapter in a larger narrative. “The Question” challenges the listener with its shifting time signatures and intricate melodies, showcasing the ensemble’s versatility and command over the jazz language. Notice how natural the pulse flows and Roberts’ expressive use of articulations to play with the time feel. “By Your Side” offers a tender reprieve, a beautiful waltz that pulls at the heartstrings, while “Solar Panels” injects a dose of high-energy, up-tempo swing that showcases Roberts’ skillful soloing and the ensemble’s tight-knit interplay.

“Harry Brown” is a modal journey, with Patitucci’s arco bass and Bollenback’s synth effects painting a backdrop for Roberts’ soulful exploration. Throughout the album, Bollenback’s various guitar tones add a variety of sounds. “Jive Dumpling” mixes funk, New Orleans swagger, and contemporary jazz into a mysterious and exhilarating concoction. Patitucci and MacBride always create a pocket that feels as good as it sounds. “Up To No Good” and “The Scotsman’s Ballad” further demonstrate Roberts’ compositional and improvisational genius, balancing space, and texture with melodic inventiveness.

“Stretch Armstrong” is a swing-driven homage to the jazz tradition. Each soloist brings their unique voice to the fore, showcasing the ensemble’s deep musical empathy for bebop and Roberts’ unparalleled ability to navigate between jazz’s many dialects.

Green Lights shows Troy Roberts as a force to be reckoned with, a musician whose depth of understanding and love for jazz propels him to new heights. It is a work that deserves to be listened to with the same care and attention with which it was created, offering insights not just into the musicians who crafted it, but into the very soul of today’s modern jazz. As Roberts continues to chart his course through the ever-expanding universe of jazz, Green Lights is for all those who value originality, complexity, and the sheer joy of musical exploration. This album is a must-listen for anyone seeking to understand the state of jazz today and its potential for tomorrow.

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