Biography

Robert Jacobs was born in Brooklyn, New York. As a teenager, he played music in the “Borsht Belt,” the resorts in the Catskill Mountains of New York. Bob and his friends, including trumpeter Len Stern and drummer, Joe Londino, formed The Society Five and played engagements in New Jersey and New York, including at The New York World’s Fair in 1964. While living in New Jersey, Robert studied with jazz accordionist, Pat Cantarella.

Robert (Bob) Jacobs working on some tunes at the piano, while at home on the Outer Banks of North Carolina (OBX)
Photo by Melissa Brugh

Robert left the New York City area to go to Washington D.C. in 1965 to attend college at American University and then law school at George Washington University. During his years in Washington, Robert played at The White House, Kennedy Center, Wolf Trap National Park For The Performing Arts, on Capitol Hill, at many embassies, private clubs, country clubs, hotels, and for Presidential Inaugural events. Robert accompanied such performers as Pearl Bailey, Danny Thomas, Clint Holmes, and Lucy Arnaz, when they were entertaining at parties and benefits in Washington. Robert played for such political and social luminaries as President Gerald Ford, Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller, Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, Senator Teddy Kennedy, Ethel Kennedy, Sargent Shriver, Lady Byrd Johnson, Senator Howard Baker, David Lloyd Kreeger, Marjorie Merriweather Post, and Perle Mesta. Bob accompanied Jewish folk singer Abe Brumberg at The Washington Folk Festival, The Smithsonian Institute, and The Yiddish Folk Festival at the University of Michigan. While in Washington, he studied with jazz pianists Lester Karr, Harold Danko, and Marc Copland.

Robert moved to Maine in 1982, playing engagements in Maine, New Hampshire, and Boston. He played at The Press Club in Portsmouth, NH and hosted a jazz guest artist series at The Cliff House which included such fine musicians as Bill Kirchner, Joe Cohn, Dick Johnson, Herb Pommeroy, and John Lockwood. Robert then moved to the southwest, playing engagements in Phoenix and Santa Fe.

Robert (Bob) Jacobs working out some grooves on the accordion
Photo by Melissa Brugh

Robert relocated to Richmond, VA in the late 1990s. He joined Gypsy Roots in 2004. He has played with Gypsy Roots “live” on WCVE-88.9 FM, National Public Radio for Richmond/Central VA on several occasions with jazz host Peter Solomon. WCVE also recorded and broadcast Gypsy Roots’ 2012 and 2013 Djangoary Soiree’s, the group’s gypsy jazz festival and tribute to jazz guitar legend Django Reinhardt. Robert recorded two shows with Steve Clark, host of The Sound of Swing on WCVE. The first show focused on the accordion in jazz. The second show focused on the accordion in acoustic and world music, and was broadcast by WCVE during its broadcasts the Richmond Folk Festival. Robert has also appeared with Gypsy Roots “live” on WRIR-97.3 FM with jazz director Mike Gourrier, WTVR channel 6, the CBS affiliate in Richmond, at Randolph Macon College, Ashland Coffee and Tea, the French Embassy, the Henrico County Jazz Festival, for the Richmond Jazz Society, and many other events. Robert appeared as a guest artist with The Happy Lucky Combo, a world music group in Richmond for a live performance on WRIR-97.3 FM. He also appeared as a special guest with Antonio Garcia, Director of Jazz Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, for Tony’s 2010 annual faculty recital.

Robert moved to the Northern Outer Banks (OBX) of North Carolina in 2011. He continues to perform with Gypsy Roots. In June, 2013, the group played for author John Grisham’s daughter’s wedding reception. Most recently, Robert played both as a solo performer and with Gypsy Roots at The Willard Hotel in Washington D.C. for the hotel’s Bastille Day event. He also continues to appear as a guest artist with The Happy Lucky Combo, as well as for engagements on the Outer Banks. Recently, Robert was the accompanist for performers auditioning for The Lost Colony. In addition, Robert teaches accordion at workshops and to selected individual students, and acts as a mentor for other accordionists.