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JazzReview.com    Art of Jazz Celebration   June 4-8, 2008
Concert Review by: Paul J. Youngman


The Artie Roth Quintet was literally and figuratively smoking as Mr. Roth noted that his bass was burning his fingers, so intense was the mid-day sun beating down on the Pure Spirits stage. The quintet was comprised of pianist Dave Restivo, trumpeter John MacLeod, saxophonist Kelly Jefferson and drummer Adam Arruda. The first set consisted of songs from the Roth CD Parallels (2005 Independent) songs that impressed, Rhyme and Reason, horns blasting out a duet of smoke and mirrors magic, while drums and bass let loose with an anything goes type of head space, and piano digs to set out the direction for escape by soloing with taste and distinction. Gone But Not Missed a lament on past employment experience, Memories Remain featuring a wonderfully melodic solo by John MacLeod, and a passionate bass solo by the leader Artie Roth, added to the fire of the performance.

GEOFF CHAPMAN   The Toronto Star   March 9, 2005

Artie Roth is playing at full throttle this week,just as he has for the past decade. There's a difference this time, however. He's at the Senator tonight through Sunday releasing his new indie album, Parallels, and leading his hotshot quintet of saxman Kelly Jefferson, trumpeter John MacLeod, pianist David Braid and drummer Kevin Dempsey.

It’s his debut album as a leader, although his work as sideman on more than 30 releases by the likes of saxist Richard Underhill, vocalist Melissa Stylianou, vibist Greg Runions and tenorman Bob Brough has been well received. He's a longtime regular in the Stylianou and Brough combos.

This 75-minute album is impressive, its eight Roth-composed tracks bursting with insistent movement, shifting shapes and catchy tunes. Roth's bass is everywhere, a dominant force deeply engaged in all the music.

The disc is great, but its been a long time coming. "This process has taught me a lot about the business of leadership, being as much an organizer as a creator. Bands that are happy to have leaders who are well organized," he explained in an interview.

Toronto born and raised, as a teenager Roth spent time playing electric bass in rock bands. “My brother knew jazz history and he had records by (drummer) Max Roach, (bass icon) Charles Mingus and Duke Ellington's Money Jungle.

"I couldn't believe how piano and bass and drums interacted like this, and when I heard John Coltrane doing "My Favourite Things" and Sonny Rollins' trio disc Way Out West, I knew acoustic bass was for me.

After studying piano and euphonium at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Roth attended York University, "where my teachers included Don Thompson and AI Henderson and they helped me get inside the genre of acoustic bass.

"Since I graduated in 1992, I've played with more than 30 bands . . . and now I've come full circle and teach bass at York." Roth's development included studying in New York with bassmeisters Dave Holland and John Patitucci, lessons with TSO bassist John Gowen and substantial touring.

"I'm music-driven. The bass has a long history and I love learning about it, but I do my writing on piano. When I was in New York last time (1997) I led groups and started composing. We even did a recording, but it wasn't released. "I've found that although I still do a lot of work as a sideperson, leadership gives you the chance to hear the music evolve although I still have to take care of the business side. You realize that your music is just tunes, loose and open, but you have the opportunity to mess with the formula.

"The guys in my band are all very talented, they'll try anything, but the sessions have been smooth. For now I'm focussing on this band and I want to do another album and write new music for it, but I'm a slow writer and it's arduous. Part of what I hear in my head these days is the music of the classic Wayne Shorter quintet.”

Roth, now 36, who admits to loving gardening and cooking, says bass playing requires different qualities. "A lot depends on the style of jazz. You have to have a good sound and great time. Once you get there, you get to the other pieces like technical skill and solo ability. Ray Brown had it all and so did Paul Chambers - I'm sure they were fun to hang with.

"Nowadays most jazz work is very demanding, you have to use the bow a lot more and in Toronto the level of bass playing is very high."

MARK MILLER   The Gobe and Mail   March 12, 2005

The talk at" the Top 0' The Senator these days concerns the pending sale to a business consortium of the second-floor club, together with the downstairs dining room and the upstairs Torch Lounge. The current owner, Bob Sniderman, will retain control of the Senator Restaurant next door,The Top 0' The Senator will present jazz through June, according to the club's manager, Sybil Walker, rounding out its history as a jazz room at 15 years to the month. Jazz will be just one element of a broader music policy when the Victoria Street complex reopens as The Savoy after undergoing renovation.

Jazz, of course, is a here-and-now proposition, no matter what the future may hold, and it's the Toronto bassist Artie Roth whose quintet is here at the.Senator now for the purpose of launching its first CD, Parallels. And a fine CD it is, introducing Roth's heretofore unrevealed skills as a composer.

He's working with the standard "bop" configuration of instruments: trumpet (or rather cornet) and flugelhom (John MacLeod), tenor and soprano saxophone (Kelly Jefferson), piano (David Braid) and drums (Kevin Dempsey).

But his "bop" is of the "post" rather than "pure" variety, inasmuch as he employs a range, of structural and organizational devices that put a fresh and often graceful spin on the tradition and get his musicians to think of still other ways to renew old ideas.

Roth’s four tunes in Tuesday's opening set of the week worked well on both counts. His compositions came with moving parts, independent lines and tempos that moved slightly, though not awkwardly, in opposition and created a gentle tension for his soloists either to develop or to diffuse. The soloists in turn were deployed with some imagination. MacLeod and Jefferson, for example, went affably head to head on Rhyme and Reason, which also left Braid rather enigmatically to the very last, after the final reprise of the tune's theme.

These are not major innovations, but they do depart from idiomatic routine. Only once did the quintet ring any overly familiar bells; Jefferson, playing tenor, gradually engaged Dempsey on For Ages in a way that harked back to the legendary exchanges between John Coltrane and Elvin Jones in the mid-1960s. On the other hand, Braid developed a rich, rippling improvisation in Gone... But Not Missed of no obvious provenance in piano jazz, and then worked with' Roth and Dempsey through a lovely trio passage in Memories Remain.

Roth, for his part as the band's bassist, was a physical presence at all times, head bobbing and body rocking with the instrument from side to side. There's a real spring to his rhythmic step and a fullness to his sound, the latter adding weight to the ensemble even as the former carried it lightly.

So yes, a physical presence, but also - in the matter of composition - a highly intelligent one.

Ted O’Reilly   The Wholenote - May 1, 2005

Toronto bassist Artie Roth leads an impressive quintet in a debut release of original compositions, equally impressive.

He’s been around playing around town for a few years now, following studies at York University and in Banff guided by teachers like Don Thompson and AI Henderson. Roth has shared band stands with the internationally famous Kenny Wheeler top vocalist Melissa Stylianou, John Roney, Bob Brough and others.

Roth has always acquitted himself well in these settings, but steps forth on this new release making the melody or introductory statement on most tracks. He has a full, rich sonority and plays in tune(!) whether pizzicato or arco. He has a lovely lead-in on the track Ages.

The leader's bandmates - not sidemen - are a generation-and-a-half mix of fine players, with one or my one-time all-star players in John Macleod on trumpet an flugelhorn alongside one-time Montrealer Kelly Jefferson, an enthusiastic tenor/soprano player. David Braid, the pianist is a joy in any setting, and the drummer Kevin Dempsey has matured into a sensitive and observant contributor.

The title track is a sort of a loose upwards melody, allowing expansions by the soloists, and the arrangement offers backgrounds for the soloists so the listener doesn’t gel lost. Imprint is enhanced by some fine Braid piano, and the ominously-titled Orwell's Warning has the kind of late ‘60s Miles Davis "Miles Smiles" sound that I always felt was undeveloped by the trumpeter's own groups as they ran ahead into amplified funk.

Maybe Roth can continue that exploration, (I know liner notes have become passe, but I think that on a debut release some biographical information is called for.)

Parallels by Budd Kopman - AllAboutJazz.com

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