The Plus Ones, by Brooke Nolan
Watching Chris Botti perform is a bit like going on a whirlwind musical tour with your best mate. His affable and charming character transformed the Sydney Opera House, taking us from a smoky New York jazz club one minute to a full-on Broadway show the next.
But it’s not just the best mate persona that makes watching Botti a treat. It’s his sheer majestic musicality. Arguably one of the world’s best trumpeters, he’s collaborated with musicians including Sting, Andrea Bocelli, Joni Mitchell, John Mayer, and Mark Knopfler.
He’s a master of his instrument, seamlessly transitioning from melow harmonies to powerful and extravagant solos. There’s a beauty to the ease in which he plays. Despite this, there’s no ego. Sometimes you actually have to take a moment to remember that it’s his name above the door.
This is a musician that shines when the spotlight is on him, but who is more than happy to take a back seat and let the talented musicians he’s surrounded himself with share the limelight too. Botti announced, ‘You’ve chosen the right night — you have the best line-up of the whole tour’, just after his opening song.
And boy was he right. Violinist Sandy Cameron nearly stole the show with her energised performances of songs including ‘Emanuel’ and an epic (and wonderfully curveball) version of Led Zepplin’s ‘Kashmir’.
Neo-Soul singer Sy Smith quite literally surprised the audience by appearing stage right mid-song. Botti and Smith’s version of ‘The Very Thought of You’ was one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen, made by the duel-like riff between singer and trumpet which showed just how well these guys work together.
Drummer Lee Pearson actually broke his snare drum, drank a glass of red wine, took his jacket off, and played the front of the kick drum (yep) during an epic solo, without missing a beat.
Whether it was impromptu jamming or refined versions of jazz standards like ‘My Funny Valentine’ and ‘Blue in Green’, every song was played to perfection and left the audience wondering what surprise was coming next.
Botti told us at the beginning of the evening that he’s been performing for 245 days per year for over a decade. If this gig is anything to go by then I wouldn’t be surprised if that hectic schedule continued.