Composer, pianist, visual artist and poet David Thomas Roberts is a 21st-century Renaissance man. He will illustrate one facet of his multiple talents when he performs for the Ragtime Society of Colorado at 7 p.m. May 1 in Englewood.
Roberts, who has performed in Norway, Japan, New York and across the U.S., will focus on traditional and New Ragtime — or “Terra Verde” — at the Ragtime Society’s new venue, Schmitt Music, 155 W. Hampden Ave., Englewood. (Turn north on Cherokee into the shopping center. Schmitt Music is on the right, with parking.)
Roberts was born in 1955 in Moss Point, Miss., and wrote his first piece, a waltz, at 8, performing it in a recital. By his mid-teens, immersed in music, his compositions increased in depth, influenced, he writes, “by the work of Ives, Satie, Cage and Joplin — influences that continue to drive me.”
“Romantic Minimalism” is one facet of his work that continues today — “an emotive, pattern-driven direction.”
But what his Colorado audiences will hear is in the realm of a specialized art music, New Ragtime and its relative, Terra Verde, that niche audiences around the world recognize as David Thomas Roberts’ sound and material.
Perhaps best known is “Roberto Clemente” (1979), as well as “Camille,” “Through the Bottomlands,” “Frederic and the Coast” (also 1979). His playlist for May 1 had not arrived as of press time.
He writes that in 1995, he first applied the term “Terra Verde” to the “Neo Romantic Pan-American genre he had pioneered.” Latin beats combine with the ragtime style in a lively, pleasing sound which harks back to early composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, who used to haul his piano by train, performing in the U.S. and Latin America.
Roberts and pianists Frank French and Scott Kirby have incorporated Gottschalk’s style into their own modern versions of Terra Verde. All integrate traditional ragtime pieces such as those by Scott Joplin into their programs as well. (Kirby is scheduled in September.)
Roberts, who is an active Primitivist painter, relates to the American landscape in his compositions, with suites such as “American Landscapes,” “New Orleans Streets” and “Map Dreams.
His 20 released discs include many first recordings of neglected American pieces of the late 19th and early 20th century — such as Gottschalk.