Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

May/June 2015: Esperanza Spalding

Robi Botos: Piano Wizard

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Pianist Robi Botos is a freak of nature. He’s what you get when you mix together Herbie Hancock, Billy Preston, George Duke, and Oscar Peterson (one of his mentors). He’s got technique, he’s got style, he’s got invention.

Botos was born in Hungary, of Roma descent. (He did the score for a recent Canadian film, A People Uncounted: The Untold Story of the Roma.) He grew up playing drums, percussion, and piano in a musical family. In 1998, he immigrated to Canada, where he has steadily built a national and international career for himself from his home base of Toronto.

People are taking notice. He won the National Jazz Award for Keyboardist of the Year in 2007, the 2008 Montreux Jazz Festival Solo Piano Competition and the 2008 Great American Jazz Piano Competition. A couple of years ago, he won the Montreal International Jazz Festival’s TD Grand Jazz Award.

He’s performed and recorded with a lot of top-level artists (Joey DeFrancesco, Toots Thielemans, Michael Brecker, and Avishai Cohen, to name a few), and this spring he released Movin’ Ahead, his second recording as a leader. He fires up some stellar talent on this recording: Seamus Blake on tenor saxophone, Robert Leslie Hurst III on bass, and Jeff ’Tain’ Watts on drums.

Botos’ Jazz Festival performance on June 17
is one to catch for sure. He’s the funkiest, most pyrotechnical piano-synth wizard of his age group!

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