The Art of Conversation

Met Schwung

“The Art of Conversation[1]” is the name of a new CD by Kenny Barron and Dave Holland playing the festival on Saturday It could as easily have applied to last night’s Jazz Winnipeg concert at the Royal MTC. Musical conversation through improvisation, featured solos, call and response, “cutting contests” with musicians challenging each other to take the music one step further,  are the cornerstone of a good jazz performance.

The show featured Canadian Jazz royalty led by composer and band-leader Christine Jensen and featuring some fine trumpet lines by her sister Ingrid. The review of their performance will follow.

Robi_BotosThe show opened with Robi Botos leading his first tour with a quartet. Botos is a Hungarian-born Canadian raised, Oscar Peterson mentored, award-winning pianist.

My high-school choir conductor sometimes urged the choir to the next level by calling out in Plautdietsch “Met Schwung” (literarily, ‘with swing,’ figuratively, ‘make it swing’). Botos nailed that aspect of jazz composition and performance with his quartet opening for the Jensen Jazz Orchestra.

He also seemed to be having the time of his life with an infectious grin that carried through his band and into the audience. He noted Roma was the preferred expression as “gypsy” was a pejorative label back in the day, though he said “we live with it” as a label for styles of music and food.

Conversation within the quartet was fluid, developing organically with soloists also each taking their turn as established form. Clearly, though they were playing Botos original compositions with gifted melodies, their improvisation and conversation made the performance lively and a joy to hear.  I appreciated particularly how Botos worked with his drummer Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts through the set,  the drum solos were often more like duets.

Piano is a rhythm instrument, well exploited in the Botos set. He also put his hand into the Steinway grand (thanks St. Johns Music) which is all the go these days. In his hands Botos was able to make the piano sound like a Roma lead string instrument in his soulfully played ballad “Rumonago,” – !programmation=artist$robi-botos/23.[2]

His conversation in this piece featured his work with the sax player Seamus Blake, one of the best in Canada. Botos is a gifted jazz pianist, but as a composer and bandleader he seems incredibly generous with his band. What a treat! It was a great show, and the CD Moving Forward will be an addition to your music library that you will return to many times.

[1] I’m looking forward to this show, and I’ll be reviewing the CD prior to their performance here.

[2]  Scroll down the Jazz Winnipeg site to the bottom, then scroll down even further for this song, though all of them are good listening.

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