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.
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