• By Peter Crimmins
    Video by Kimberly Paynter, for NewsWorks

    One of the most popular trumpeters in jazz is in Philadelphia this week.

    Chris Botti, whose smooth and accessible music have earned him a huge international fan base and Grammy nominations, will perform at the Mann Center Thursday with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

    He flew into town a few days before the outdoor gig to teach some of the finer points of technique to teenagers at the Clef Club on South Broad Street.
    A summer camp jazz ensemble of about 20 kids played three numbers for an attentive Botti. Aspiring trumpet player Manny Ohemeng, 16, took a turn soloing on the Horace Silver tune "The Jody Grind."

    "I did a famous Dizzy Gillespie lick, from 'Dizzy's Atmosphere,'" said Ohemeng, who has been playing for seven years. "As my dad sometimes says, 'It's OK to copy, as long as you copy the right cats.'"

    Botti, dressed in a black suit and sneakers, sat back and listened. Then he offered insight learned from great trumpeters like Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard.

    "A lot of young musicians try to over-think it," Botti told the young players. "If you listen to the great ones, like Lee Morgan, it's actually more soulful and more simple, and not pentatonic and note-y. For the trumpet player, just simple stuff, that works."

    Botti then played with the students, demonstrating a simpler, more confident lick, ending in a racing, sliding finish.

    After the class, Botti explained what he gets from these drop-in teaching classes.

    "To try to get young people to be more simple-minded, in the sense that you can practice an instrument and find such incredible joy out of producing a note and the simpleness of it, and the connection with the instrument, rather than trying to fast-forward all their lives to are they going to be a superstar, are they going to be on 'American Idol'?"

    Many of the kids on stage have been practicing their instruments for years. As such they could give enough pep to an old warhorse like "When the Saints Come Marching In," with a stepped-up Mardi Gras rhythm, that Botti and his trumpet fell in.


    Chris Botti doesn't want to be defined as a jazz musician, even though, right now, he is the top-selling jazz instrumentalist in the world. Botti would prefer to be recognized merely as a trumpet player. Merely? That's like saying Rembrandt merely painted pretty pictures.

    He has it all: a big, rich warm sound, dazzling technique (that he doesn't overuse) and seemingly effortless range. His two-plus hour set Friday in Reynolds Hall at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts began with a tune called "Venice," from his album "Italia." Following the original statement and development, Botti traded eight-measure ad lib phrases with the members of his five-piece band, leaving no doubt that he is plenty willing to share the spotlight with them - as he did frequently throughout the evening. Next came the Victor Young tune "When I Fall In Love," with a brilliant piano improvisation by the great Billy Childs, who numbers among his credits four Grammys and the 2009 Guggenheim Award in composition.

    An unusual addition to a jazz concert, classical violinist Caroline Campbell was brought on to join Botti in his version of the "Chopin Prelude in C Minor," a piece commissioned by the government of Poland where the group tours annually. The rich sound of her (amplified) violin was an ideal complement to Botti's own instrument, and the lush lyrical phrases the two produced were perfectly matched.

    The late Miles Davis was a strong influence on Botti, and there is a strong trace of Davis's style in his playing. However, one can pick up elements of Dizzy Gillespie and even Chet Baker in more reflective moments. Campbell joined Botti on "Flamenco Sketches," from what is probably Davis' best-known album, "Kinda Blue." A counterpart album, "Sketches of Spain," provided another Davis classic, "Concierto de Aranjuez." Tempo and volume dropped markedly for a hauntingly beautiful version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," done with nearly understated simplicity by Botti's muted trumpet with guitar.

    As a change of pace, singer Lisa Fischer took the stage for a knockout set that began with Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "The Look of Love." Soon, both Fischer and Botti were in the front rows of the audience for Ray Noble's "The Very Thought of You," made a hit by Billie Holiday and more recently covered by Etta James. Fischer made her mark through years of appearances on tour with the Rolling Stones; however, Friday's exposure, albeit brief, gave her latitude to display a full catalog of vocal skills, including a range rivaling that of Botti's trumpet.

    While tone production on a brass instrument is largely the product of the player, a share of the rich consistent trumpet sound he is known for must be attributed, in part, to Botti's horn itself, a 1939 Committee model Martin, whose large bore softens and shades the bright piercing quality sought by orchestral players.

    Botti's stage persona appears quiet and withdrawn, that is, until he begins to play. He looks much younger than his age - he'll turn 50 later this year - but he exudes confidence and charm whenever he takes the microphone.

    Botti has diverse experience in several musical genres, including studio work, classical, pop, rock and fusion. One of his mentors, and a musical collaborator, is the multitalented David Foster. No doubt it is largely due to Foster's influence that Botti rejects being pigeonholed. With 14 albums to his credit, and now near what is probably the peak of his creative arc, Chris Botti seem destined to occupy a place of prominence in whatever fields of musical endeavor he chooses to pursue.

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  • American jazz trumpeter and composer Chris Botti has developed a niche as an award-winning artist who blends jazz with different genres, including pop and classical music.

    His recent album Impressions features an enviable list of guest artists, including Herbie Hancock, Andrea Bocelli and Mark Knopfler.

    "If you go back to Kind of Blue [by] Miles Davis," Botti says, "around 20 per cent of that whole record is Miles' trumpet sound. He featured John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley and Bill Evans to play as a kind of foil to him."

    Botti takes inspiration from that sort of blending of artistic contributions, but chose to focus on featured guest voices for Impressions, released this spring.

    "When I want to back away from the framework of what’s going on musically, then...the listener is hearing Herbie Hancock or Vince Gill or David Foster or Andrea Bocelli or Mark Knopfler," he told CBC's Zulekha Nathoo.

    The question he asks himself, when contemplating new musical collaborators, is "Who do you get to step into the spotlight — when I'm not there — that is unique and musically satisfying?"

    Over the years, Botti has shared the spotlight with an eclectic range of artists: from Sting and Paul Simon to Steven Tyler and Yo-Yo Ma to Frank Sinatra and Joni Mitchell.

    Most jazz musicians want to "do their thing" and stay away from "pop music melding," he admitted.

    "For me, I like it. I think it's unusual. I'm proud of the guests we've had...It all hangs together as a piece of music."

    After a gig in Toronto on Thursday night, Botti is set to play Ottawa on Friday as well as a concert in Montreal on July 1. Dates throughout the U.S. follow this summer, but he returns to Canada with a stop in Calgary in November.

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  • Trumpeter Chris Botti steals hearts along with the show



    Who: Chris Botti

    When: Monday

    Where: Royal Theatre

    Rating: Four stars (out of five)

    Oh, Chris Botti — are you a thief? Because some hearts were certainly stolen at the Royal Theatre on Monday night.

    It should come as no surprise that jazz trumpeter behind albums like A Thousand Kisses Deep (2003), When I Fall in Love (2004) and To Love Again: Duets (2005) was a smooth operator.

    This man could write the rulebook on how to charm an audience. They snapped their fingers when he said snap. They laughed at his semi-self-deprecating stories — like the one when music mogul David Foster suggested he work with Andrea Bocelli (shows clout), but then he responded, "Hey David, What do you do? Call 1-800-Bocelli?" (shows he's like everybody else). They may have even wiped a tear away when, for the first song after the encore, he pulled a 14-year-old drummer from the audience to join the band on stage for a heart-stopping rendition of Nessun Dorma.


  • Trumpet and cornet and music divine

    KRIPOTKIN By Alfred A. Yuson (The Philippine Star)

    Everyone in the full house that enjoyed the Chris Botti: Live in Manila! concert last Tuesday at Resorts World Manila’s Newport Performing Arts Theater came away sated with excellent music — in all of its possible permutations at that.

    At exactly 9:37 p.m. the top-selling American instrumental artist and the world’s No. 1 trumpeter started on his third number, for which alone I was there — for the sweet pain of music.

    It was one of his fave pieces, Emmanuelle, composed by Michel Colombier, with its achingly haunting melody that comes vertiginously close to emo edge, but draws back in time to escape sappy “senti.”

    Ha ha. Not exactly best enjoyed alone, but I’ll take it anytime, especially from among what must be a hundred compositions (and movies and porn flicks) entitled Emmanuelle.

    Last November, when Chris Botti first performed live in Manila as a featured artist for Radio High’s 105.9’s official launch, ladies swooned all over Greenbelt 5’s Fashion Walk under a tent when the Grammy winner played the same number, in a duet with violinist Aurica Duca.


  •  Chris Botti at his best in Impressions

    SOUNDS FAMILIAR By Baby A. Gil (The Philippine Star)

    I listen to Impressions by Chris Botti and I think, beautiful. That is such an overused word but there is nothing I can think of that would best describe the album. It is an incredible mixture of sounds. Heavenly. Moving. Inspiring. Romantic. It makes me want to tell everybody that this guy, whom I first encountered as a trumpet player who made it to People Magazine’s list of beautiful people has now become a total music artist.

    Impressions makes me think of Herbie Hancock, Sting, Paul McCartney and Quincy Jones. They are all pop artists who also mastered the intricacies of the art of recorded music. While others are contented doing the hits that their public expects from them, they surmounted the limitations of their assigned genres. Think of Jones getting Michael Jackson into Thriller or of Hancock with his Imagine album. What about Sting and his live recordings or of McCartney composing a symphony?

    Botti is not yet there. Almost. But he got a lot of great help for his Impressions. Producer is Bobby Columby, drummer of the iconic band Blood, Sweat & Tears. He is fearless and he guided Botti through the paces that will take him from his usual pop and jazz to the edge of world music. Botti certainly proved himself more than just an instrumentalist in this CD. I do not know if it was Botti or Columby’s idea to put this stuff together but they made the music work — to take on Brazilian jazz, Broadway, Michael Jackson soul and Argentine tango. And surprise, these all go well together. Botti’s trumpet links them all and he excels in every cut.


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