Judy Roberts Biography

The Chicago Tribune has awarded pianist/singer Judy Roberts the title "Chicago's Favorite Jazz Woman." Yet she is also recognized as a worldwide jazz star thanks to the success of her international recordings and concert performances. From the Midwest to Phoenix to Singapore, Judy is best known for her fun-loving approach to an eclectic and extensive repertoire, her hard-swinging piano playing, her ability to combine lush and sensitive vocals with rapid-fire scat singing, and for her unique ability to communicate with her audience in a relaxed and intimate style.

A multiple Grammy nominee, her twenty-plus album/CD releases include the "The Other World," whose hit single "Señor Blues" was number one on the jazz charts and in radio airplay; the album "Trio," with Ray Brown and Jeff Hamilton; the song "Twilight World," co-written with piano diva Marian McPartland (on whose NPR show "Piano Jazz" Judy has guested twice); and her international hit rendition of Dave Frishberg's "My Attorney Bernie."

In addition to club and concert appearances, Judy performs at such jazz festivals as the North Sea Fest in Holland, the Singapore Jazz Fest, the Chicago Jazz Festival, and is a regularly featured artist on the Joe Segal and the Jazz Cruise Line jazz cruises, as well as the Newport Beach and West Coast Jazz Parties.

Judy is on the faculty of Roosevelt University's Chicago College of Performing Arts, and is a featured columnist for the Chicago Jazz Magazine. She continues to perform and record in the Chicago area and around the world.

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Press Review:

Two for Brazil, Judy Roberts warm up Jazz Showcase
by Howard Reich


Music devotees everywhere know that the Jazz Showcase routinely presents the foremost touring artists in the business, but every winter the venerable club turns its attention to Chicago-based talent.

For local audiences, the brief switch in policy gives local listeners a chance to reassess players who often are taken for granted. For Chicago musicians, the cold months afford an opportunity to play a nationally noted jazz club without leaving town. This week's all-Chicago lineup at the Showcase stands out, for it's a double-bill featuring artists of considerable skill and rising repute.

Thursday night's opening show, played for a smallish but raptly attentive audience, hardly could have been more deftly programmed for a freezing week in Chicago. The very sound of Greg Fishman's ethereal flute and tenor saxophone work and Paulinho Garcia's warmly insinuating vocals and soft-spoken guitar playing evoked images of white sandy beaches along the coast of South America.

That's precisely what this exceptional duo, which calls itself Two for Brazil, had in mind.
But even beyond its idiomatic performance of music from Garcia's homeland, the duo produced top-flight jazz improvisation that transcended stylistic boundaries.

Consider Garcia and Fishman's intriguing account of Dizzy Gillespie's jazz classic
"A Night in Tunisia."

"Many people take Brazilian music into jazz," Garcia told the audience, by way of introduction. "We take jazz into Brazilian music."

Sure enough, the Gillespie tune instantly conveyed a Brazilian lilt, its nervous rhythms sleekly reimagined, its jagged melody lines redefined according to the contours of Brazilian song. This may not have been a "Tunisia" for purists, but as an experiment in cross-cultural transformation it proved uncommonly persuasive.

This listener would have been content to hear an evening's worth of Two for Brazil, but the beguiling duo was the night's opening foray. For once Garcia left the stage, Fishman was joined by pianist Judy Roberts and the rest of her quartet.

Roberts has been a mainstay of Chicago jazz for more decades than she probably cares to remember, but her uncounted engagements in hotel bars and noisy saloons have tended to obscure the melodic beauty and tonal sheen of her best work. Playing in a room where audiences actually listen, Roberts turned in warmly disarming vocals and slyly understated jazz pianism.

The best moments came in "Billie's Bounce," the Charlie Parker bebop anthem that Roberts and Fishman opened in unison, Roberts' high-register vocals exquisitely in sync with Fishman's fast-moving tenor lines. Though the tempo seemed dangerously fast at first, within a few bars it was clear that Roberts and Fishman (who are married) were articulating these volatile, rhythmically mercurial lines with ease.

Larry Gray's comparably buoyant bass lines and Phil Gratteau's impeccable drum work added significantly to the elan of a quartet that thrives in a mainstream idiom.

Two for Brazil and the Judy Roberts Quartet play through Sunday at the Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand Ave.

––Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune


Press Quotes:

"...Roberts is a sensitive, articulate pianist, with depth and range. Her playing is laced with intense, freshly-voiced chordal passages. Her singing is delicate and breathy or worldly adn sultry in accordance with the mood..." --Downbeat

"...blessed with an irrepressible musical imagination as well as the technique to give it life, Roberts stands as a first-rate Jazz singer..." --Chicago Tribune

"...at the piano she smiles and her joy is obvious. The smile isn't forced and it isn't faked. Roberts isn't faking it. She is simply a woman in love with her work." -- Los Angeles Times

Find out where Judy is performing.
Pick up one of Judy's CDs.
Some fast facts about Judy's career.
Contact Judy for a gig.
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