I initially formed Otriad to play a 45-minute suite I composed for my MA final recital. Receiving one of the highest marks in the history of the Royal Academy of Music's jazz course (95%) encouraged me to take the band on the road. The following year I crowd-funded a UK-tour, recording the final concert at The Vortex in London, of which you can hear excerpts above.
In 1941, three Jewish brothers from eastern Poland (now Belarus) witnessed the murder of their parents and other siblings by the Nazis. They escaped into the nearby Naliboki Forest, where they established a partisan group that resisted both the Nazis and their local collaborators until the area was liberated by the Soviets over two years later. By this time, the Bielski Otriad, as the group became known, had led over 1,200 other Jews to safety, defying the fate of so many of their kind by refusing to give up hope and humanity even under the bleakest conditions.
It is this strength of spirit that inspired the music of Alex Roth's Otriad, itself centred around three brothers of Polish-Jewish ancestry. Nick, Alex and Simon Roth (saxophones, guitars and percussion respectively) grew up to the sound of their mother's violin and piano, quickly taking up the instruments that would eventually allow them to develop a unique musical understanding together. This three-way dynamic has been pivotal to each of their careers thus far, forming the core of several groups along the way (including the electro-acoustic chamber ensemble Sefiroth, which re-imagines Sephardic-Jewish repertoire).
Otriad is completed by two musicians whom Alex met while studying for his MA at the Royal Academy of Music: James Opstad, who was the bassist in Alex's trio (with Simon again); and saxophonist Joe Wright, with whom Alex also played in an electro-acoustic improvising duo.
Alex's music for Otriad is an expression of the relationships that have formed between these five musicians, moving seamlessly between soaring melodies, free-form improvisation, electro-acoustic soundworlds, complex rhythmic structures and expansive harmonies.
“Alex has a really unique approach as both a composer and a guitarist, using sonic colours and texture in a way I haven't often heard done as effectively since Mr Frisell first came onto the scene. With Otriad he has formed a great band in which all the musicians are fully tuned into his concept.” - Phil Robson