By L Pierce Carson, Napa Valley Register
World traveling trumpeter Chris Botti stopped off in Napa last week with his latest musical ensemble.
The generous two-hour-plus show that Botti and eight colleagues presented to a full house of fans at the Uptown Theatre turned out to be an absolute corker. The tightly knit, wildly talented ensemble was, as the saying goes, hitting on all cylinders.
As she usually does, violinist and Stanford grad Caroline Campbell raised eyebrows and gooseflesh. The classically trained artist caresses with dreamy ballads, then gets down when the tempo is turned up.
We’ve heard vocalist Sy Smith before but no one’s ever been better at delivering the Al Green hit “Let’s Stay Together” … except for Al Green, of course.
Danville’s George Komsky, offering the operatic “Italia” and “Time to Say Goodbye” with his warm, soaring voice, let Napans know why he’s ranked one of the best tenors in the nation.
Pianist Geoffrey Keezer — who earned his stripes as a young man with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers — dazzled us with not only his arrangements but also the improvisational solos contributed throughout the evening.
And who in the audience was not blown away by the new addition to the rhythm section, drummer Lee Pearson? Not only has he backed such acclaimed jazzmen as Roy Ayers and Ronnie Laws as well as singer Erykah Badu, Pearson was part of a world tour with Savion Glover’s Tony Award-winning Broadway show, “Bring in Da’ Noise, Bring in Da’ Funk” from 2002-2003.
Commenting on the newest band member, Botti points out that Pearson is “a very unusual combination of jaw-dropping chops, showmanship and finesse.” And that’s just what Pearson’s magnificent solo near the end of last week’s concert was — jaw-dropping. I suspect Gene Krupa might well have been smilin’ from on high.
And then there’s three more top-shelf guys contributing to the mix — bassist Richie Goods, guitarist Ben Butler and keyboardist Andy Ezrin.
For those who think Chris Botti is all about dreamy smooth jazz ballads, they need to catch a live performance. When Chris and his trumpet aren’t serving up “Emmanuel” or “Hallelujah,” they’re taking the lead on sizzling arrangements of Tin Pan Alley classics or breaking new ground with contemporary R&B hits. A terrific bandleader with an ear for talent, Botti is equally at ease with straight-ahead jazz, turning his bandmates loose for numerous crowd-pleasing solos.
By now, Botti is a familiar face in the valley, his trumpet a welcome and enjoyable sound. He’s played the Mondavi summer festival three times, appeared at Far Niente Winery as part of Festival del Sole and graced the Lincoln Theater and Napa Valley Opera House stages. And now he’s becoming a regular at the Uptown Theatre.
Botti is a native of Oregon who was born in Portland, raised in Corvallis, and spent two years of his childhood growing up in Italy. His earliest musical influence was his mother, a classically trained pianist and part-time piano teacher. He began playing trumpet at age 9 and, after hearing a recording of Miles Davis playing “My Funny Valentine,” realized the instrument was his key to “doing something meaningful with my life.”
Since the 2004 release of his critically acclaimed “When I Fall in Love,” Botti has become the largest selling American jazz instrumentalist, according to Billboard. In 2013, Botti won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album for his “Impressions” recording.
Botti’s fans couldn’t have been happier that the 53-year-old trumpeter chose to play in Napa on his birthday. It was a night to remember.
By Gary Budzak
For The Columbus Dispatch • Saturday June 20, 2015
Photo Credit: Leah Klafczynski / Dispatch
One of the Columbus Symphony’s favorite guests, trumpeter Chris Botti, turned in a typically top-notch performance Friday night in the Columbus Commons. However, the surprise of the evening was the weather — it didn’t rain.
Maybe it was the presence of WBNS-TV meteorologist Chris Bradley, telling us to keep our fingers crossed. It could have been CSO Board Chair Lisa Barton’s thanking the audience for braving the weather. Or perhaps it was what Botti called maestro Albert-George Schram’s good relationship with the man upstairs that kept the elements at bay. Then again, how could it rain on the opening Picnic with the Pops concert of the season?
Although the Commons was surrounded by clouds, it turned out to be a beautiful evening, completely dry with a slight breeze. The only negative of the night was too many sirens could be heard during the concert.
And what a concert it was. Unlike most pops shows, Botti and his band performed on both halves of the concert. In addition, the symphony played throughout, and could be heard well.
Botti, 52, is perhaps the most popular instrumentalist performing today. He’s equally at home playing a jazz solo, an operatic piece or a pop standard. While some of the audience may like Botti for his good looks, others favor his sound. When Botti plays his 1939 Martin Committee handcraft trumpet, it sounds more like a flugelhorn. He can get a strong but sad tone from the horn that redeems some of his smoother tunes.
Trumpeters aplenty have chops, but Botti also has the personality that allows a club or lawn audience to get into the show. He’s no shoe gazer — Botti breaks jazz down for first-timers. He said they play the melody, “the Taylor Swift part,” then on the solo “sometimes we go off to another planet.” Later, he went out into the audience, playing trumpet for people in front tables. Many cellphone photos were taken.
The other thing that made this a stellar show was the talent surrounding Botti. As a bandleader, he likes having people who play at his high level by his side and sharing the spotlight with them.
First was pianist Taylor Eigsti, who Botti said looked like Bradley Cooper and played like Bill Evans. Then there was expressive violinist Lucia Micarelli, who shifted from pathos to Kashmir without missing a beat. Botti also gave some love to bassist Richie Goods on Flamenco Sketches; Ben Butler (who may have been best on the opening En Aranjuez Con Tu Amor, although he got more cheers for the Iron Man riff); tenor George Komsky, who proved a ringer for Andrea Bocelli on Italia and Time to Say Goodbye. Last but not least, Botti made sure we heard a lot of trumpet-imitating singer Sy Smith and powerhouse drummer Lee Pearson. The latter’s long solo included balancing a stick on top of his head as he played.
Read the full concert review here at dispatch.com
BY ERIC HOLLAND
BY MIKE RAGOGNA
A Conversation with Chris Botti
Mike Ragogna: Chris, recently, you played the national anthem and it not only made national news but you also brought Reggie Wayne to tears. That must have been an amazing moment for you.
Chris Botti: I think I did one interview with the Indianapolis newspaper after I performed that, you’re the first person to ask me about it since then. But in my career, I’ve been very fortunate to have some really nice, freaky things happen, like Oprah Winfrey wants me on her show or something like that. Who would’ve ever thought in a million years that the cameras would be somehow fixed on this legendary football player on the exact moment that he starts tearing up? If I would’ve just played the anthem and that hadn’t happened then they would’ve just said, “Hey Chris, nice anthem.” It would’ve just been that. The drama of not only him being affected like that but also the TV cameras catching it is just the wildest thing. You practice millions and millions of hours playing trumpet and then this one thing comes along and everyone remembers, it’s so nice. A lot of credit is due to David Foster for playing those beautiful chords underneath me. I kind of had a backseat role in all of it, but it was pretty thrilling.
MR: For most artists, just performing the national anthem on Monday Night Football is pretty intense as it is.
CB: Yeah, and I’ve done a few of those. I did the AFC Championship and countless other regular football games for NFL, and I did World Series as well. Those are always really fun opportunities to play.
MR: Chris, you have a residency coming up at New York City’s Blue Note between December 15th and the first week of January, and not only are you playing but you’re having guests a slate of special guests join you. What’s it like to take over the Blue Note?
CB: We tour about two hundred fifty, three hundred days a year. The band is a well-oiled machine in that respect. We have a very serious outlook on gigging and performing, so for us to come to New York at that time of year, which is always special, and then to play that legendary jazz club and do forty-five shows in twenty-one nights–I think we’re doing a couple of days where we have three shows in one day–it’s a rush. And you don’t have to get on an airplane so you can walk to work. It’s fantastic. This is our tenth year, so people have come from all over the world to make December fun for them in New York. It’s taken a lot of time for us, traveling around the world, where we were in Istanbul last month or Republic Of Georgia and everyone’s like, “We’ll see you at the Blue Note in December!” You get a feeling that the word has actually spread and people will actually come to the show. It’s really a nice feeling.
Read the full interview here at huffingtonpost.com
TRIANGLE ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
by DAWN RENO LANGLEY+ • November 17th, 2014 •
On a tour that has spanned 10 years and many countries, Chris Botti has performed with and for luminaries who are too numerous to count. On Nov. 16th, thousands of his closest friends packed the Durham Performing Arts Center on a misty Sunday night to be thrilled by his virtuosity; and all of them left completely wowed by the experience.
Read the full concert review here at triangleartsandentertainment.com
THE INDY CHANNEL
BY DAVE FURST
Were you as moved as Reggie Wayne during the playing of the national anthem before Monday night’s Colts game? Chris Botti, the musician behind it all, said he was equally surprised and pleased by the reaction to his performance.
Botti spoke with RTV6 Sports Director Dave Furst about his Hoosier ties.
He went to Indiana University in the early 80s before leaving his senior year to go on tour with Frank Sinatra. Since then, Botti has been nominated for five Grammy Awards, and won the best pop-instrumental album last year. Botti said Monday night’s performance ranks right up there, especially since it was the first time he had performed the anthem in eight years.
“While I was happy to be playing the anthem, it was great, but it was really the fact that it moved Reggie to that experience and also the whole situation with his career and on top of that, he had a great game. So it was a win-win-win,” Botti said.
Watch the full video here at theindychannel.com
By Breeanna Hare, CNN
(CNN) — Before the final whistle at Monday night’s game between the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Giants, trumpeter Chris Botti had already won.
The Grammy-winning musician was on the field at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, to perform the national anthem for November 3’s “Monday Night Football.” No vocals, as we’ve become accustomed to — just Botti and his instrument.
What transpired was so affecting that it left viewers with chills and brought Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne to tears.
“I’m just blessed to be out there,” Wayne later told ESPN. His performance during Monday night’s game pushed Wayne to eighth
Read the full article here at CNN.com