Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
Cellist Hank Roberts is one of the most accomplished jazz improvisers on his instrument, working mostly in the avant-garde and modern creative fields. Roberts was born March 24, 1955, in Terre Haute, IN, and began studying classical cello at age ten; he also experimented with trombone, guitar, and piano in high school. At 19, Roberts attended the Berklee School of Music, where he began to develop an improvisational style that incorporated jazz, blues, folk, and classical music, and often featured double-stops and chord voicings. Roberts didn't enter music professionally until the '80s, when he moved to New York, eventually settling in Ithaca; he made an immediate impression on the downtown N.Y.C. scene, and quickly began playing with Bill Frisell and Tim Berne. Both appeared on his 1987 debut as a leader, Black Pastels (on JMT). In 1989, Roberts joined two different ensembles: Miniature, a freewheeling trio featuring Berne and drummer Joey Baron; and Arcado, a string trio also including violinist Mark Feldman and bassist Mark Dresser. Both released eponymous debuts that year; Miniature recorded three albums before disbanding in 1991, and Arcado issued its sophomore swan song in 1992. Meanwhile, Roberts recorded his second effort as a leader, Birds of Prey, in 1990, and the next year formed his own trio with bassist Peter Chwazik and drummer Bill King. In the middle of the decade, he became a teacher in order to spend more time with his family. However, he returned in 1997 with two sessions: the entirely solo, cello-and-vocal improvisations of 22 Years From Now (recorded in a monastery); and I'll Always Remember, the first CD to feature Roberts' longtime trio. In 1999, Roberts recorded a duo album with Tim Berne called Cause and Reflect, and the following year he performed with the new acoustic string trio Ti Ti Chickapea on their debut A Change of Worlds.