©Brett Delmage, 2017
Mike Filice (sax) and Artie Roth (bass) showed how attuned they were together in their concert at Southminster ©Brett Delmage, 2017

The Artie Roth Trio
Concerts by the Canal
Southminster United Church
Saturday, October 28, 2017 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

On a cold, wet, late October evening, the Artie Roth Trio provided a warm and welcoming offering of intricate and original jazz.

The Toronto-based trio – Roth on double bass, Mike Filice on tenor and soprano saxophone, and Alexei Orechin on guitar – played Roth's tunes, all but one of which were from his most recent two albums. It was a varied lot, from bluesy with strong riffs, to classically-influenced, to a tender elegy, but all very much in his own voice. Roth introduced each of the pieces to the audience, telling stories about them and explaining their influences. He made the whole concert feel like a musical conversation among friends.

The music was overall on the quiet, more ambient side. Roth specifically chose this repertoire to fit the reverberant quality of the church's interior. In that space, his bowed bass lines swelled and ebbed, and his pizzicato notes sang and sometimes felt almost physically present. Orechin's guitar was silvery and fluid, while Filice's saxophones sounded insinuatingly melodic with a very full tone.

Roth had told OttawaJazzScene.ca that one of his aims as a composer was to create singable tunes, and you could hear that in several of the pieces. “Heron Aria” was a graceful, classically-influenced tribute to the Great Blue Heron he and his wife saw flying only 6 or 7 feet above them on a lake near Parry Sound. “Memories Remaining” was inspired by his late grandmother-in-law, who used to ask him “wickedly difficult” musical questions; it had a memorably nostalgic melody. In “Fathom”, the melody was neatly tossed from musician to musician, each playing with it but retaining its essential character. “A Transient Space” was a particularly lovely ambient tune, with soprano sax, bass, and guitar all being given the space to sound and fade and meld in a quiet and expressive piece.

I particularly enjoyed the zesty and bopping “Strike” (which played on the multiple meanings of that word), the muscular sax-bass-guitar interaction in “Blues for All That Is Left Unspoken”, and Orechin's fast and ringing guitar solo in “The Compromise Blues” (which Roth noted wasn't a blues in structure, only in the theme of having to make compromises).

The concert closed with the memorable “Last Chance Morning”, a tribute to a woman Roth knew, who dreamed of climbing Mount Everest. Those who live in Nepal can't afford the $30,000 permit to climb the mountain or the tens of thousands of dollars it costs to join an expedition, Roth noted, and it was only after Shriya Shaw-Klorfine had emigrated from Nepal to Canada and worked and saved for many years that she was able to start her climb. She made it to the summit, but died on the descent.

The song was a moving requiem for her, opening with dark and mournful bowed bass, which developed into deep growls followed by almost what sounded like sobbing. Then Filice entered with the song's theme, an optimistic melody, which slowly developed sadder undertones with a rougher bass line and chiming guitar notes. Flowing guitar contrasted with deep tolling bass notes underneath, and then Filice reentered with a more emphatic retelling of the theme which he let fill the church and then fade. It was greeted with extended applause.

The audience was involved throughout, listening intently, laughing, and clapping enthusiastically, particularly at the end. And it was well-deserved applause, too: the trio gave a strong performance together, each responding easily and naturally to the others to produce a well-rounded and nuanced interpretation of Roth's compelling compositions.

Set List

Set 1:

  • Re:Discovering the Wheel
  • Strike
  • Heron Aria
  • Memories Remaining
  • Blues for All That Is Left Unspoken

 Set 2:

  • Fathom
  • A Transient Space
  • The Compromise Blues
  • Last Chance Morning

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