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Marcus Roberts: The Truth is Spoken Here

By Published: January 24, 2005

AAJ: Roland Kirk once said that "Sound, to me, is like eyesight." Going all the way back to Blind Tom Wiggins, some of the world's great musicians have been blind. How do you think sight affects music?

MR: Blindness is something that is definitely more of a hindrance than an asset. To me, music is oral whether you have vision or don't—it's a hell of a talent. I think it is more of a challenge to figure out how to play music than anything celebratory. That's my sense.

You can't go out in public and whine about it. You're certainly not going to see Ray Charles do it. But believe me, if you ask Ray about it, he is certainly going to tell you that there were real challenges that may not have been there, had he had vision. We can certainly assume that had Ray Charles had sight and the same talent, he may have been even greater.

But you don't want to make it out that your struggle is so unique. Everybody has issues, dysfunctions, struggles, all that stuff. I think what is important to remember is that most people can choose to expose it or choose not to. With blindness, you cannot choose. You walk down the street with a cane. You are visible to the world but the world is invisible to you. And so, in that sense, it's a very harsh reality. You can transcend it, if you are a certain type of individual.

That's the whole reason for me getting into jazz. It was a music where I felt that the premise—the very existence of it—had more to do with attitude than anything else. The idea that adversity can be turned around, full circle, and that playing the blues is how you heal the blues.

AAJ: True enough. So what kind of material can we expect from the trio at this year?

MR: We'll definitely play some tunes off of the new CD. We've got another new CD called Cole After Midnight that's coming out someday soon. And remember, we are playing two nights, so we'll get the chance to play a variety of things. We also have some music from a solo Joplin record that we've arranged for the trio.

AAJ: Can we expect Wycliff [Gordon] or Ron [Westray] to sit with the trio?

MR: Yeah, certainly. And the way Ron plays is certainly an asset. That would be great. I'm very proud of Ron with the work he has done and the type of vision he has exhibited in this southern community. Wanting to get the music out to the people and trying to convince the public that the music is not above them, it's about them.

Originally published in the South Carolina Free Times (2001)

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