“United We Play,” a Fitting New Film of Jazz, Blues, and Symphonic Swing From Musicians’ Homes

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In the first few minutes of United We Play, a short new livestream from musicians’ living rooms and distanced bandstands, the pianist and narrator Marcus Roberts makes a familiar point that bears repeating as the pandemic stretches on: “In jazz, we play the blues to defeat the blues in life.” In different contexts, this can sound like a totalizing theory that not every jazz innovator identifies with, but in the moving words and music of Roberts, it’s a foundational truth and the creative core of his life. It’s also the timely theme of the film, “inspired by the current turbulent times.”

United We Play is free and powerful. Catch it here. Roberts joins the American Symphony Orchestra and the Modern Jazz Generation in a premiere of three works: America Has the Blues, Seeking Peace, and United We Play. “This is a very politically charged time in our history,” he says halfway through. “It’s so important that we do everything we can to listen to one another.” If you’re new to Roberts, start with his brilliant solo spin of “Blue Monk.”

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