The National by Saeed Saeed
If you are going to have Sting waiting in the wings as a special guest, then your show needs to be strong enough to starve off the anticipation. Chris Botti did a reasonable job of that with his Dubai Jazz Festival performance on Thursday night.
Joined by a near dozen strong backing band, the popular American trumpeter serenaded the packed crowd to an evening of jazz standards and reinterpretations of pop classics.
However, the Botti on stage is a different performer to his multimillion selling albums.
Where those records were nocturnal affairs and a soundtrack of choice for dinner parties, the 53 year old was much looser live as he indulged in several feats of dazzling improvisations among arrangements ranging from big band to straight out rock.
In the case of the latter, their take on Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir packed a real punch with Botti’s Spanish influenced tones adding extra pomp to the affair.
At times, one felt that Botti and his crew were trying too hard with the extended rock and blues jams — it almost felt like he was trying to justify himself for being the arena act that he now is.
It was when he dialled things down that Botti was in his element. His thoughtful take of Billie Holiday’s The Very Thought of You, featuring vocalist Sy Smith, was beautiful.
So was his treatment of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah; where the original revelled in mystery, Botti’s take was more refined and melodic.
It set the scene well for the arrival of Sting, who sauntered on to the stage over an hour into the set.
He began his mini solo set (Botti left the stage) with If I Ever Lose My Faith, demonstrating why the 64-year-old vocals remaining one of the best in the business.
By the time he breezed through English Man in New York and Message in A Bottle, one feared that Botti was totally overshadowed.
For all the talk of Sting’s ego, however, the rock icon was a gracious support act to Botti when the latter returned on stage.
One could sense the mutual appreciation between the two when they performed a joint set of Sting classics and covers.
When it came to the former, the laid back, jazzed-up vibe of Seven Dayswas a treat. However, their take on the Frank Sinatra classic In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning was a flop — the ache and heart break of the original was criminally replaced with Disneyesque schmaltzy arrangements.
That said, the set was varied enough to keep fans of both artists satisfied.
We just finished rehearsals today and I’m very excited to be heading out for a group of special performances featuring my good friend Sting. We’re so looking forward to performing in Dubai, Georgia, Manila and Jakarta with 2 1/2 hours of music featuring our most popular songs!
February 25th – Dubai, UAE
February 27th and 28th – Tbilisi, Georgia
March 3rd – Manila, Philippines
March 5th and 6th – Jakarta, Indonesia
NBC will celebrate the lighting of the world’s most famous Christmas tree with “Christmas in Rockefeller Center®” on Wednesday, Dec. 2 (8-9 p.m. ET).
NBC’s “Today” anchors Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker and Natalie Morales will host the live broadcast from New York City’s Rockefeller Center, which will showcase spectacular holiday performances from Sting, Mary J. Blige, Andrea Bocelli, The Band Perry, Andy Grammer, Carly Rae Jepsen, Pentatonix, Band of Merrymakers, and music legend James Taylor, featuring world-renowned trumpeter Chris Botti. The evening will also include a special performance by the Rockettes.
The 83rd annual holiday extravaganza will feature a 78-foot tall Norway Spruce from Gardiner, N.Y. It is approximately 80 years old and weighs approximately 10 tons.
Once again, “Green Is Universal,” NBCUniversal’s sustainability initiative in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation, will kick off its annual tree-planting campaign during the “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” broadcast. This year, viewers can “GIF’t a Tree” to a national or state park or forest, by using #GIFtATree or visiting www.greenisuniversal.com to create and share an animated holiday tree GIF. Each action will contribute to the Arbor Day Foundation’s tree planting efforts, funded by a $25,000 donation from NBCUniversal.
Prior to the primetime telecast, an additional live hour of the special will be broadcast on select NBC stations (7-8 p.m. ET). Check local listings.
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.