Pianist tickled by ‘dream team’ collaboration

PHOTO COURTESY TRACEY NOLAN FOLLOWING IN OP’S FOOTSTEPS: Robi Botos, who opened for Oscar Peterson in 2005, is about to release his first solo album, Movin’ Forward. It is a testament to where he is in his career, and his pursuit to go it alone.

PHOTO COURTESY TRACEY NOLAN
FOLLOWING IN OP’S FOOTSTEPS: Robi Botos, who opened for Oscar Peterson in 2005, is about to release his first solo album, Movin’ Forward. It is a testament to where he is in his career, and his pursuit to go it alone.

Robi Botos launches new album with impressive lineup of jazz musicians

Jazz musician Robi Botos knows that dreams can come true.

The 36-year-old Forest Hill resident has put together an impressive quartet, himself included, for his debut solo album, Movin’ Forward.

Its release, on March 24, comes after a year spent in the recording studio with Grammy-winning musicians Robert Hurst on bass and Jeff (Tain) Watts on drums, as well as Grammy nominee Seamus Blake on saxophone.

But getting guys who have performed with Branford Marsalis, Sir Paul McCartney and Diana Krall was no easy task.

“The availability to get these three musicians even in the same country for three nights is not easy,” he admits, while nestled in the alcove of a small neighbourhood coffee shop. “Definitely one of the dream bands I’ve ever wanted to collaborate with.”

He connected with the three through performing with Marsalis at Koerner Hall in October, 2012. Hurst and Watts met with him there, and in an effort to not duplicate Marsalis’ quartet, Botos asked Blake to come in on tenor.

“Kenny Kirkland, one of my heroes, played piano with that same quartet, and he passed away in the late ’90s,” he says. “If I ended up recording with the three guys, minus Kenny, it’s kind of like recreating Branford’s quartet.

“By having Seamus, it’s a little bit my own project.”

Speaking of heroes, the Nyireghaza, Hungary-born pianist-drummer opened for his biggest idol, Oscar Peterson, in 2005. Botos made such an impression on the Canadian stalwart he was asked to teach Peterson’s daughter, Celine, to play the piano.

Botos lowers his tone when he discloses this little detail, a sign of his humble nature.

“I just don’t like talking about those things,” he confesses.

What he prefers talking about is how these musicians influenced him, and how he’s true to his craft. With Movin’ Forward he avoids the conventional jazz standards, writing from the heart — and his Hungarian culture. The title draws on his desire to move ahead in his musical career, and to go it alone.

His nature is infused throughout the album with Hungarian folk music, classical and funk. It’s a decision he admits is risky, due to the packaged nature of some artists.

“There are some boxers who would switch up style in the middle of a fight, or painters who have one painting that is traditional and the next one is so out there,” he says, with a smile. “I just try to be honest about it.”

To celebrate the launch of Movin’ Forward Botos, along with his dream team, is performing March 26 at the Jazz Bistro. Then it’s off to Montreal the next day, followed by a stop in Waterloo on March 28.

“It’s going to be a crazy three days,” Botos says, the smile returning, albeit a little more tired. “But I think it’s going to be good.”

A cross-country tour is not set in stone yet, but in the works.

 

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