Montana Public Radio

The 'Other John Roberts' Plays Trombone In A Billings Salsa Band

Sep 22, 2020

In grade school in Malta, Montana, eleven-year-old John Roberts--the trombone player, not the Supreme Court justice--watched as the band director, playing a blues solo, muted the bell of his trombone with a handleless toilet plunger. Roberts's destiny was sealed. "I guess that's my personality right there. ... I guess I gravitate towards things that are brash and obnoxious."

Roberts moved from the family ranch near Malta to Billings and Los Angeles to study music, then back to Billings, where he's a professor at his alma mater, MSU-Billings. But during his 17 years in L.A., Roberts toured the world with the likes of Bobby Womack, Los Pinguos, The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, The Temptations, Chaka Khan, and Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca. His many session and U.S. performance credits include Burt Bacharach, Lady Gaga, Dr. Dre, The Ojays, Feist, the L.A.Philharmonic, Mariah Carey, and his own salsa African funk band, Pan Blanco.

Pre-Covid, Roberts composed, arranged, performed and recorded Afro-Latin soul music in L.A., Montana and beyond--and he'll be back at it the moment the coast is clear.

(Broadcast: Musician's Spotlight,  9/22/20. Listen on the radio Tuesdays, 7 p.m., or via podcast.)