Roberta Piket

Roberta Piket, a native New Yorker and the daughter of a European composer and Great American Songbook singer is a pianist who enjoys swinging and exploring the more adventurous harmonic possibilities in jazz and improvised musical compositions. Roberta’s father was Frederick Piket, an Austrian composer whose works were performed at the New York Philharmonic under the legendary conductor Dimtri Metropolis. Roberta’s father, Frederick Piket, died when Roberta was eight. He is also well-known for his important contribution to the musical liturgy in reform Judaism. Cynthia, Roberta’s mother, taught her how to earmark the music of Gershwin and Kern, Rodgers, Rodgers, Rodgers, Berlin, and the lyrics. Roberta’s life was changed by a chance encounter with a vintage LP she found at a flea marketplace in her teens. My older brother had purchased a few copies of the Muse LP from Walter Bishop Jr. for 25 cents each. He played it for my and I flipped. The sound of the jazz trio was just what I needed. The CD was called Speak Low and I found the original sheet music in my mother’s collection. “I learned all the songs on this record,” I said. This included the title tune, Milestones, Alone Together, and On Green Dolphin Street. Roberta fell in love with 20th-century classical recordings, which belonged to her father shortly after the epiphany. Soon, she was splitting her time between the piles of sheet music in her attic and learning standards. She also enjoyed the Schoenberg and Bartok records and scores from her father’s library. A few Ellington scores were borrowed from the New York Public Library. She also listened to saturation WRVR-FM, New York’s jazz radio station, at the time. Roberta’s interest in music grew and her mother tried to discourage Roberta from following the difficult path of becoming a professional musician. She enrolled in the Tufts University-New England Conservatory joint double-degree program for five years as a compromise. “Having come from Hunter College High School in New York, which has a strong liberal arts curriculum, I wasn’t opposed to continuing my liberal arts education in college. Roberta received a degree from Tufts in computer science and a New England Conservatory degree in jazz piano. However, after working as a software engineer for a year, she realized her true passion was music and returned to New York to continue her studies and play. She applied for a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and began studying with Richie Beirach, pianist. “I was young and ignorant when I returned to New York. Richie was a musician I had never heard of. Blind luck led me to study with someone who could help me incorporate my love for modern classical music into jazz playing and writing. As Roberta’s artistry developed, she found herself in a unique position of being able to play both straight ahead jazz and so-called free music. She was asked to perform on two of the tunes that he was working on for his next CD after she had to sub with the Lionel Hampton Band. Lionel Hampton was the first person I recorded a CD. Because the production was not well-organized, I had to help Lionel to rehearse and to write lead sheets for Ron Carter. (He chastised me for using diminished chords instead dominant 7th chords) to assist in the editing stage. Marian McPartland would also hear her as a finalist at the Thelonious monk composers competition and invite her to be a featured guest on NPR’s Piano Jazz. This would be her first appearance on the show. Roberta recalls that Marian was a friend of mine and to many young musicians. Roberta was brought full circle by her 1999 Japan tour, which she did with her own trio. “The first night that we arrived, I was playing with the cable radio system in my hotel room. There were many jazz specialty stations. The first song I heard when I turned on the radio was from the long-forgotten Walter Bishop Jr. album, Speak Low. It was haunting and deeply moving to be able to recall the moment I fell in love with the trio of pianos while touring internationally with my trio. Roberta has performed professionally as a sidewoman for Rufus Reid and David Liebman over the years. She has performed and toured with some of the best musicians in American and European improvised music. Roberta is a talented composer and was a finalist at the Thelonious Monk Composers Competition. She also received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Roberta hails from Queens, NY. When she was seven years old, her father taught her the piano. Roberta started serious music studies as a teenager, learning jazz piano from Walter Bishop, Jr., and classical piano from Vera Wels. She studied privately with Fred Hersch and Stanley Cowell, Jim McNeely, Bob Moses, and Jim McNeely while at New England Conservatory. After six years of studying with Richie Beirach she returned to New York and studied briefly with Sofia Rosoff. Roberta’s trios have performed in Japan, Spain, and the U.S. Sides, Colors, her 2011 CD, features her trio. She also orchestrated pieces for wind and string, sang, and even played the organ. A variety of projects followed. These included an electric band, Alternating Current; the free improvisation trio Belogenis and Piket; the international Roby Glod Quartet; and the Nabokov Project. This project sets Vladimir Nabokov’s poems to music for piano, violin and mezzo-soprano. It combines neo-classical harmonic concepts and lush melodies with free improvisational sections. Roberta has recently been focusing on solo piano performance. Solo, her 2012 CD, was named one of the top ten jazz albums of 2012. Emanation, her spring 2015 CD, is the follow-up to Solo (Solo Volume 2). Recent solo concerts include Kostel sv. Vavrince, Reigen, and Palomar College, San Marcos, CA. An Die Musik, Baltimore, and Smalls, New York City. Roberta is an educator and has taught master classes at Rutgers University and Cal Arts, Duke University and the Northwestern University Composers Colloquium. As a panelist in the Queens Council on the Arts grant process review process, she has also taught at the Litchfield Jazz Camp as well as the Vermont Jazz Center. She is also the author and editor of the Jazz Piano Vocabulary series workbooks. Roberta performs occasionally on the B3 organ at Harlem’s landmark Showman’s. She also leads her own small and Mezzrow groups. She is a “closet singer” and has written many big band compositions. She has been touring Europe many times in recent years, including France and Germany as well as Austria, Luxembourg, Ukraine, Ukraine, Spain, and Luxembourg. Roberta has unique musical interests and sensibilities because of her fusion of musical worlds during her youth. Roberta’s many recordings show that she is equally comfortable playing standards (Solo and Emanation), free improvising, (Poltva and Op Der Schmelz), or composing and arranging her own music (“Sides, Colors”; Live at The Blue Note). Roberta believes there is no limit to the genres, but only the possibility of making exceptional music. from

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