Botti making a big impression with new CD
BY MIRIAM DI NUNZIO Staff Reporter / Chicago Sun-Times
Never let it be said that jazz trumpeter Chris Botti rests on his laurels. He never rests — period. Especially when it comes to touring (he still plays about 300 dates a year ) and making music (he just dropped his 14th album in 17 years).
The Grammy-winning Botti, who’s touring resume includes stints with Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon and Sting, is perhaps best known for his jazz-pop fusion on critically acclaimed albums such as “Night Sessions” (2001) “A Thousand Kisses Deep” (2003) and “To Love Again: The Duets” (2005).
Botti has just released “Impressions” (Columbia Records), a collection of covers and original compositions that, well, trumpet, lush, provocative melodies. And as is often the case on a Botti CD, the album is not without its special guests; this time out the roster includes Andrea Bocelli, Vince Gill, Mark Knopfler, Herbie Hanc***, David Foster and violinist Caroline Campbell.
One very special “guest” on the album is the presence of Frederic Chopin on the lead-off cut, “Prelude (No. 20 in C Minor)” in which Botti delivers a reverent homage to the iconic piece. It is a song very dear to his heart, the 49-year-old musician says.
“About 12 years ago when I began touring with Sting we played our first show in Poland and we were just taken aback by how amazing audiences were, how knowledgeable they were about different kinds of music,” Botti said during a recent phone conversation. “So I made it my mission to go back there as often as I could, and in April I did my 13th concert there over the past 8 years. When that horrific plane crash happened and the government leaders were lost, a year later the new government commissioned us to perform this piece. It was such an honor for me. It was our love letter to Poland. I felt it had to be on this album.”
Seems “Inspirations” is chock-full of songs from the heart. On Randy Newman’s “Losing You,” Gill’s crystalline vocals and Botti’s velvet trumpeting combine for one of the prettiest covers of this ballad you’re likely to ever come across.
“I can’t think of a more heartbreaking song that’s just so perfectly written,” Botti said. “ The first thought that came into my head was I have to record this with Vince Gill. I’m such a huge fan of his and he has this super-rare instrument for a voice. So we went out to Nashville and cut the song with just Vince and his pianist. Then we went back to L.A. and did all the drapery (adding the orchestra). I think people will be very surprised by this one.”
The album’s arrangements are sweeping at times and perfectly succinct at others, thanks in no small measure to the talents of orchestrators Vince Mendoza, William Ross and Gil Goldstein, among others.
“We had the luck to work with incredible arrangers, and we could take our time,” Botti said of the album, which was produced (save for the Knopfler track) by his longtime manager/producer Bobby Colomby. “Nowadays in the record business you listen to an album and there might be one or two good songs, but there’s really no depth, no texture to the album. We wanted to achieve those textures. If you look at Herbie Hanc***’s take on “Tango Suite” (co-written by Botti), there’s a real sophisticated texture to the song. If you look at David Foster’s take on “Summertime” (co-arranged by Botti) it creates a mood and keeps you there till the last note.”
Of the Hanc*** track, Botti is still in awe recalling how the legendary pianist dove into their writing collaboration.
“Herbie and I spent a day at his house. He just sits at his piano and does this thing where he doesn’t play right away. He’s just calculating it all in his brain. ... Then he plays the first chord and then I played and then he plays a cluster and then I do, and we just meandered around on that for a while. We listened to about 20 minutes of improvising and sort of grabbed little bits of a song, and then Vince Mendoza came over for a day and wrote the final arrangement. We did the track live with the whole orchestra crammed into the studio. ... It was just this surreal, incredible experience.”
And as for the Knopfler-Botti duet on “What a Wonderful World,” Botti is beyond grateful for the opportunity.
“That’s just the most random thing I will probably ever do in my career,” Botti said chuckling. “My manager is a good friend of his, and after [a series of phone calls] it just fell into place. I recorded it in London in his studio with his band. It’s all shepherded by Mark because that’s the way he works. There’s this genuineness that comes through in the way he speak-sings the lyrics. The core of the song was one take, straight through. He was particular about doing it that way. It’s one vocal performance. He’s a stickler on that. He just nailed it.”