Reginald Robinson’s love for traditional jazz styles started in 1984 with his older brother listening to Swing recordings at home. In 1986 while in 7th grade, Urban Gateways held an assembly at his school called “From Bach to Bebop” with a live jazz ensemble. In 1992 with the help of pianist Jon Weber, Robinson’s professional music career began when he recorded a demo of 17 original tunes. Soon after his first album was released on Delmark Records in 1993 he received an invitation from pianist Marian McPartland to appear as a guest on her popular radio show “Piano Jazz.”
Robinson’s music has been used in theater and film; The Goodman Theatre’s 1995 production of Each One As She May, Intimate Apparel – a play (2003), Compensation – an independent film (2000), and he served as a contributing historian for the 2010 documentary “Chicago’s Black Metropolis.” In 2004, he was awarded the rare and distinguished John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Award for his innovative ragtime piano works and music research.
In June of 2017 Robinson worked with Illinois Humanities to present “An Evening at the Pekin Theater”, the first owned and operated African American music theater in the world. In 2018 Robinson was commissioned by pianist Norman Malone and Kartemquin Films to compose a ragtime work for the left hand, and he premiered a work in tribute to pioneer African American bandleader James Reese Europe – commissioned by Symphony Center Presents – on November 2nd at Symphony Center. In December 2018 Robinson gave a performance/ lecture on Scott Joplin’s music at The Schomburg in New York.
In 2019 Robinson teamed up with MacArthur fellows Susan Sygall (CEO of Mobility International-USA and the Women’s Institute on Leadership & Disability) and flutist Claire Chase for a special music concert of disability activism and artistry. In addition to concertizing, Robinson is internationally known for his lectures at colleges and universities, which has aided to preserving the legacy of African American history.