Robi Botos Trio


Pianist Robi Botos and's Jaymz Bee

Robi Botos Trio served as the opening act for Molly Johnson at the inaugural mainstage show of the 20th anniversary Toronto Jazz Festival. Botos, the 27 year old Hungarian phenom led the group with his brother Frank Botos on drums and Attila Darvas on bass. You can't swing a cat without hitting a Botos on a bandstand in Toronto these days. Robi is definitely the biggest talent, the most talked about player in this family of Hungarian musicians that now call home. In fact, he received first prize in the 2004 Montreux Jazz Festival solo piano competition. Not too shabby. Not too shabby.

The trio opened their set in the tent at Nathan Phillips Square with two of the leader's compositions "Place to Place" and "Longtime No See" both nods to his family and his Gypsy heritage. Botos' compositions feature strong melodies and unexpected, seismic shifts in rhythm. His playing on these pieces was vibrant, if a little flowery. There was a hint of the old world in his sound here, classical influence were obvious. My only complaint being the gratuitous use of grace notes...once you conjure up Frank Mills it's hard to get back into the right frame of mind. It is impossible to deny Botos' skill, but something in these first two tunes left me wanting more. It was all a little too earnest. I wanted him to dig in.

The third tune the trio played was the first standard of the set, "Summertime". Botos opened with a solo on electric piano. His sound isn't clean, even on acoustic. He has a thick, muddy quality to his playing which lends itself beautifully to electric. Darvas followed suit, abandoning his acoustic bass for an electric model. He supported Botos with a funky, Marcus Miller style popping bass solo and Frank Botos was there with a kicky backbeat. The trio's version of "Summertime' was nothing but impish, funky fun. Great stuff.

They followed that with Robi Botos' arrangement of "Footprints". It was an inventive reimagining of the standard that proved beneath all the flowery, pseudo classical stuff beats the heart of a funky, funky player. The trio finished off their set with a quiet version of "What Is This Thing Called Love" that had a beautiful, pensive ending.

It was as if Botos used this set as a sampler to show his chosen hometown the breadth and variety of his talents. We ate it up.

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