Jazz, in the blues and swing sense of the word, is somewhat of an anomaly in the 21st century. The jazz clubs keep closing their doors, the major labels keep cutting their jazz roster, the jazz schools keep de-emphasizing swing, and as a result, jazz is losing its relevance in popular culture more and more each day. Sometimes it seems
like there is no hope for the people who desire jazz that makes ...their toes tap and their hearts beat.
However, in 2010, there is a man who gives hope for the future. At the tender age of 32, Robi Botos is, quite simply, one of the world’s great pianists. With Robi’s debut recording, the world can rejoice in the arrival of a musician whose thorough knowledge of the vast jazz piano tradition and keen sense of adventure is a light that will guide jazz into the future; and the future looks bright.
Robi Botos was born in Nyiregyhaza, Hungary in 1978. Raised in a musical Romani (Gypsy) family, the mainly self-taught Botos began playing drums and percussion as a child, before moving on to the piano at age seven. The piano quickly became his entire life, and within one year, he was already playing professional gigs around Hungary. Life in Hungary for the Romani people is consumed by brutal persecution that is constant, and largely ignored in popular consciousness, which is why at the age of 20, Robi left Hungary with his wife and two children, and came
to Toronto, Canada, where they applied for refugee status as Hungarian Romanis.
With his sights set on the vibrant Toronto jazz scene, Robi hit the ground running, immediately being recognized as one of the country’s brightest young stars. Robi was looking forward to a new and optimistic life with his family in Canada until one day, with no warning, the immigration board came to Robi’s house, telling him and his wife, who was eight months pregnant at the time, that their claim for refugee status had been rejected. They were to be deported within a matter of days. Knowing it could not bare to lose a brilliant musician and soulful person such as
Robi, the Toronto jazz community exhausted all of its resources to make sure he and his family could stay in Canada. Petitions were circulated, jazz fans who are high-profile lawyers offered their services free of charge, and favors were called in at the CBC Television news show The National, which featured a story about the Botos’ and their plight. To the great fortune of all Canadians, the tireless efforts of the jazz
community paid off, and the Botos’ rejection was overturned, allowing Robi and his family to stay in Canada.
As Robi’s reputation for musicianship of the highest order spread, he attracted the attention of a fellow Toronto-based pianist, Robi’s hero, Oscar Peterson, who mentored Robi in the last several years of his life. Though not exclusive on Robi’s musical palette, Oscar Peterson’s influence can be heard clearly in Robi’s formidable technique, an effortless sense of swing, the bottomless pit of creativity he has access to as an improviser, a thorough foundation of the blues that is deeply ingrained in his consciousness, and an unquenchable desire to squeeze every last drop of beauty from life’s bittersweet fruit.
This brand new recording is Robi’s debut as a leader. Made with Robi’s regular trio of Atilla Darvas on bass and Robi’s brother Frank Botos on drums, it represents the global vision of today’s modern jazz musician. It has one foot rooted in the tradition, and one foot stepping towards the future. Whether Robi is interpreting the music of the master composers, such as Cole Porter and Wayne Shorter, or displaying his broad and first-rate composing skills, it is a recording that takes a melting pot of
influence and churns out a unified modern jazz vision.
Standards from the Great American Songbook, including “What Is This Thing Called Love” and “You Don’t Know What Love Is”, are treated respectfully, but at the same time bring a fresh approach to age old classics.
“Life Goes On” and “Long Time No See” are examples of modern jazz at its most melodic and thoughtful. “Place To Place” displays the influence of global jazz fusion groups like Weather Report.
“Be Bach” answers the question, “What if Johann Sebastian Bach had been playing
on 52nd Street in the 1940s?”
“Homeland” is a dramatic reflection on the plight of Robi’s Romani brothers and
“Playing The Piano” is a playful demonstration of the endless possibilities that occur
when a genius is let loose in a recording studio.
Last but not least, the centerpiece of the album is Robi’s tribute to his hero, Oscar Peterson, the pensive ballad “Emmanuel”, which is presented in both trio and solo renditions. Composed as a gift for Oscar Peterson’s family, the song’s alluring sincerity is stunning in its elegance. It is a piece of music that will cause any fair-minded listener to take a moment and contemplate life. The conclusion reached upon the song and album’s completion is that as long as long as people like Robi Botos are able to present their take on humanity to the world, life is a beautiful