Troy Roberts, Green Lights Review

Illuminating Movement in Modern Jazz: Troy Roberts' Green Lights


Troy Roberts, Green Lights Review

Illuminating Movement in Modern Jazz: Troy Roberts’ Green Lights

by Nolan DeBuke

Troy-Roberts-Green-feature-the-jazz-word-cdTroy Roberts has established himself as a beacon of innovation and virtuosity within today’s jazz scene. His latest album, Green Lights, is his 16th foray into the realm of musical leadership with an album of ten tracks all penned by Roberts. This album marks a moment in Roberts’ discography where he combines a more straight-ahead vibe with his ever-evolving contemporary jazz sound. His ability to seamlessly blend genres and styles is further enriched by the collaborative nature of his compositions with his ensemble of top-tier musicians.

Green Lights is vibrantly brought to life by an ensemble comprised of John Patitucci on bass, Paul Bollenback on guitar, and Jimmy Macbride on drums. The ensemble, though recording together for the first time on this album, displays an uncanny chemistry that breathes life into Roberts’ compositions, making each track a unique journey through the vast landscape of modern jazz. The presence of these renowned musicians not only elevates the album’s overall sound but also underscores Roberts’ significant role in the contemporary jazz scene.

From the opening track, “Green Lights,” the album introduces listeners to its thematic core: the idea of moving forward and exploring new territories. The track’s engaging melodies and the ensemble’s tight interplay exemplify Roberts’ ability to create complex, yet accessible jazz music. His saxophone work, characterized by its warmth and expressive range, navigates through the composition with precision and emotion, proving him to be a storyteller of remarkable depth.

Throughout the album, Roberts demonstrates a profound understanding of jazz’s history and its myriad stylistic turns. For instance, “The Question” explores shifting time signatures and provides a platform for each musician to showcase their versatility, while “By Your Side” presents a more traditional sound, with its waltz rhythm and expressive solos that speak directly to the jazz listener that has a wide range of ears in their record collections.

“Harry Brown” and “Jive Dumpling” are excellently performed examples of Roberts’ compositional genius. They blend modal jazz with elements of funk and contemporary jazz to create a sound that is at once based on the past and entirely fresh with today’s energy and sounds. The synergy between Roberts and Bollenback, particularly in their trading solos, highlights the album’s emphasis on collaboration and mutual respect among the musicians.

“Up To No Good” and “The Scotsman’s Ballad” further illustrate the ensemble’s ability to traverse the spectrum of jazz, from the playful and rhythmic to the deeply emotional and contemplative. Roberts’ compositional style shines through in these tracks, offering listeners a glimpse into his creative process and his capacity to evoke a wide range of emotions through music.

“Stretch Armstrong” closes the album on a high note, showcasing the ensemble’s adept handling of complex jazz harmonies and rhythms. Like the rest of the album, this track is an enthralling listening experience of Roberts’ technical mastery and innovative approach to jazz composition and performance.

In Green Lights, Troy Roberts and his ensemble have crafted an album that exemplifies contemporary jazz. It reflects Roberts’ personal journey as an artist and the collective experience of musicians pushing the boundaries of what jazz can be. The result is a vibrant conversation between musicians charting a course forward, inviting listeners to join them in exploring the rich, dynamic world of modern jazz by an S-tier leader and ensemble.

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