Paul Riola's Bottesini Project

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Born: January 30, 1973    Primary Instrument: Saxophone

The guiding principle of this ensemble is to create a collective of Denver musicians dedicated to free improvisation. Every Bottesini performance will be an entirely unique musical experience which will draw upon a multitude of musical genres and landscapes. In each coming performance various instrumentation and personnel changes will become the norm. You can expect to see some of the most talented and proficient musicians on the Denver scene in all future Bottesini performances. Each performance of Bottesini will focus strongly on a programmatic approach to free improvisation. The intent of this approach is to create musical landscapes with inherent form and structure; thus, lending the impression of composed rehearsed music....
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Westword Magazine 2008 Masterminds Award in Performing Arts Category
Denver saxophonist Paul Riola has just released one of the most accessible free-improvisation collections I've heard in a while. He refers to the collaboration as spontaneous composition, but a listener doesn't need to take an academic approach to “Bottesini” (CMW Records) to appreciate the forward- moving pulse, the instant grooves and shared excitement of discovery. The artists aren't creating variations on time-worn melodies, but the project still echoes the spirit of an old- fashioned jam session.

The assembled cast on “Bottesini” makes sure that there's just about always something happening that's worth your attention. Cornetist Ron Miles, turntablist DJ Olive, guitarist Jeff Parker and pedal steel player Glenn Taylor weave in and out of the mix, sharing their own considerable experiences from the world of improvisation.

Meanwhile, drummer Scott Amendola and bassist Doug Anderson lay down mostly rock-influenced backdrops. As for Riola, he's up to the challenge of the nationally recognized names he brought to Colorado. He trades barbs nicely, especially when he picks up the soprano, an increasingly neglected instrument.

“I spend a lot of time thinking about the ensembles,” says Riola, who tries to put one of these happenings together several times a year. “I find out what their overall musical aesthetic is, and project the potential chemistry. I'm into the works of all the musicians on this particular record.”

Two CDs is a lot of music to digest, and I'm surprised by how often I've been returning to “Bottesini.” That's in part due to the respect I have for the guest musicians, especially Miles and Parker, who know how to engagingly play with space and are so cliche-free in their soloing. But what's best about the set is the overall cooperative feeling. It adds up to a smart, abstract dialogue between artists who use their instruments instead of words. Since it was recorded in front of an audience, it's a shame that the enthusiastic Denver crowd was so sparse.

So, what is a Bottesini?

“The first time I did one of these projects, I called it the Dragonetti ensemble,” Riola says, confusing things further. ”He was this 18th-century bass virtuoso who was eccentric. He lived with mannequins and even introduced one as his wife. He was the most respected bass player in Europe. His arch nemesis was a bass player named Bottesini. He even tried to play Dragonetti's bass. But he never did get to play it.”

Judging by this music, it appears that, at least in name, centuries later, Bottesini is finally getting his due.

Bret Saunders - The Denver Post

The Bottesini Project is a free-flowing ensemble led by the Denver-based saxophonist Paul Riola. The lineup is a fluid one. For Bottesini’s debut album, a double CD recorded in concert last year, the lineup is a stellar one: Ron Miles on cornet, Jeff Parker on guitar, Glenn Taylor on pedal steel, DJ Olive on turntables and laptop, Scott Amendola on drums and electronics and Doug Anderson on bass. Though they use their share of electricity, the music they create is organic. They improvise their compositions on the spot, and they let the groove drive them.

The groove is the thing. It powers all they do, much as the groove powered Miles Davis’ early ’70s bands and, more recently, the music of Medeski Martin & Wood and Tortoise. Parker, in fact, has played with Tortoise, which is not a bad reference point, since Bottesini likewise negotiates the fuzzy boundary of jazz and jam rock. Witness the evolution of a tune like “Time Zone Change,” which shifts its rhythm chameleon style: You barely notice it.

At times, though, one wonders what exactly Bottesini is up to. Some tunes take perhaps too long to develop (fine for a concert, but how about editing the sucker down to one CD). “Olive Bar” isn’t much more than four-and-a-half minutes of white noise ripped out of Keith Rowe’s AMM playbook. And though DJ Olive is growing on us, it’s hard not to notice that he has recycled his juxtaposition of President Bush saying “terrorist” with Middle Eastern vocals (it also appears on Moonshine, the new album from Dave Douglas’ group Keystone). Still, there’s a lot to like about the Bottesini Project’s outing, not least of all the nine-minute groove machine “Jet Lag.” Just try not to nod your head.

-Steve Greenlee The Jazz Times

As a Leader

CMW Records

Paul Riola: Saxophones/Electonics
Ron Miles: Cornet
Jeff Parker: Guitar
Glenn Taylor: Pedal Steel
DJ Olive: Turntables
Doug Anderson: Bass
Scott Amendola: Drums

As A Side Musician

Glenn Taylor Orhestra
Glenn Taylor Orhestra


Glenn Taylor: Pedal Steel
Paul Riola: Saxophones/Electonics
Roger Green: Guitar
Steve Ossolinski: Bass
Cacheflowe: Laptop
Mark Harris: Alto Saxophone

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