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avatar for Hank Roberts

Hank Roberts

Photo Credit: Monica Jane Frisell

Over his nearly four-decade career, Hank Roberts has forged a compelling original voice as a composer and a cellist, encompassing abstract improvisation, jazz influences, soulful folk melodies, intricate new-music compositions and vigorous rock songs.

Born in Terre Haute, Indiana, Roberts made his name in the 1980s legendary New York Downtown scene. Faced with a dearth of improvisational cellist mentors or peers, he carved his own path through that fertile ground alongside such frequent collaborators as Bill Frisell, Tim Berne, Marc Ribot and John Zorn, finding a second home at the famed Knitting Factory, leading and recording with his own groups, ‘Birds of Prey, ‘Black Pastels’, ‘Little Motor People’ and co-founding ‘Miniature’ with Tim Berne and Joey Baron, and the ‘Arcado String Trio’ with Mark Feldman and Mark Dresser.

The list of names with whom Roberts has shared stages or recording studios with includes Gavin Friday (with the members of U2), Sting, Jeff Buckley, David Sanborn, Mamadou Diabate, Andy Summers, Gary Burton, Marty Ehrlich, Arto Lindsey, Gerry Hemingway, Don Byron, and Julius Hemphill.

He is currently a member of Bill Frisell’s 858 Quartet and Big Sur Quintet, and appeared on the guitarist’s Grammy-winning 2004 release Unspeakable. He’s recorded 10 albums on the ‘Winter & Winter’ label, along with numerable self-released recordings. His solo performances are singularly compelling and unpredictable, wending from jagged dissonance to intoxicating pop songcraft.

Nürnberger Zeitung: the American cellist, Hank Roberts, dares to present magical musical field tests, which sound as delicate as a moribund musical box or intoxicating emotional like a pop song. …ingenious.“

His 2008 CD Green, with drummer Jim Black and guitarist Marc Ducret, won that year’s German Recording Critics’ Award in the Jazz category. “There’s a wisdom and patience and catholicity in this record (‘Green’). ‘It’s all one song,’ goes the hip musician’s cliché, but Mr. Roberts walks that walk.” Ben Ratliff, NY Times

Based since 1989 in Ithaca, New York, Roberts finds inspiration in the area’s thriving music scene. He performs and records locally with a host of uniquely talented musicians and plays annually at the Finger Lakes Grassroots Festival, which spans a range of music from old-timey Americana to African and Cajun music. He’s shared that stage with artists such as Ti Ti Chickapea with Richie Stearns and Eric Aceto, Tenzin Chopak and Rockwood Ferry, Kevin Kinsella, Mamadou Diabate, Jeb Puryear, Keith Secola, Nery Arevalo, Martin Simpson, the Sim Redmond Band, John Brown's Body, and Donna the Buffalo.

Roberts contributed musical arrangements and appears in the film Greetings From Tim Buckley, which premiered at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.

Südkurier: “From the beginning this music opens the horizon. Since the 80s Hank Roberts has achieved for his instrument… a completely new position that he keeps on strengthening. Genre limits are too narrow for him... important is his own fusion of elements, which are brought together in an improvisational way…