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Blue Ribbon Syncopators
Feat. Gil Roberts
This recording was produced in New York City on April 29th 1925 with Ted Colon trumpet, Herbert Diemer alto & bass sax, Willard Brown tenor sax, George West piano, Robert 'Gil' Roberts banjo, Seymour Todd bass brass & string bass, and Hurley Diemer drums.
*"Scratch" is credited to Harold Diemer. The tune is actually an arrangement of "Farewell Blues" composed by Paul Mares, Leon Roppolo, and Elmer Schoebel.
Robert Gilbert Roberts was born in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1896 and began playing banjo professionally in Buffalo, New York for the local "Blue Ribbon Syncopates" from 1924 to 1928. Gil would additionally serve as an accompanist to Josephine Baker, tour Europe with "Eubie Blake's Blackbirds" during the early 1930s, and later with Louis Armstrong's band. In the '50s he was working as the general custodian for the Lord Jeff Club at UMass Amherst where his various tasks included shoveling coal into the building's boiler in the Winter. The society was an alternative to joining a fraternity that was open to all students. Often found in the afternoon picking his banjo after completing his duties, Gil was a beloved figure at the college. He received an honorary doctorate from the college for his valued years of service.
Coaxed out of retirement in the early '70s by Stan McDonald, Gil proceed to perform and record as a member of the "New Black Eagle's" followed by engagements with Stan's own "Blue Horizon Jazz Band". Stan, himself a magnificent saxophone protégé of Sidney Bechet, can't say enough good things about him.
Not at all your average forgotten man of music, Gil Roberts isn't forgotten at all by those who ever knew him or anyone who has been touched by his truly innovative string jazz. In a recent telephone conversation with his daughter Mrs. Edith Harris I had the enlightening opportunity to hear her fascinating account of her father's accomplishments including his travels to over twenty countries and personally meeting with the King of Egypt.
Edith loved her father dearly and is driven and dedicated to keeping his memory alive. Though her dad was away from home a lot when she was a girl, Mrs. Harris confided in me that she understood even then at a young age that he was a great man whose duty it was to share his gift with the World. -Matt Chauvin
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