By Jim Sullivan / Contributing writer, Cape Cod Times
HYANNIS — No musician wears quite as many hats — and wears them so well — as does the nattily attired jazz man Chris Botti. He is, at the least, a triple-threat: trumpeter, entertainer/raconteur and bandleader.
Let’s consider the last, first. “My job as bandleader,” said the 55-year-old Botti, early in his set at the Cape Cod Melody Tent Saturday, “is to put together a Rubik’s Cube of all-star musicians.”
He’s done this for years and he’s doing again on this summer’s tour. It’s his name on the marquee, but with his six musicians and three guest singers he’s comprised a band of equals. And what Botti relishes most is sharing the spotlight, having musical conversations with his players, sparking off drummer Lee Pearson, violinist Caroline Campbell or pianist Eldar Djangirov.
In doing so, the 2½-hour concert went every which way, starting sentimental, slow and gentle, with “Gabriel’s Oboe” and “Theme from ’Cinema Paradiso” and then moving forward into a massive explosion with “You Don’t Know What Love Is.” Botti introduced it as a jazz standard, but promised Pearson, who he treated to a big beer cup full of red wine, would soon “drive it over a cliff.” Which the smiling drummer did, shedding his jacket, flinging his sticks into the crowd, performing like a syncopated octopus and drawing a standing O.
Botti is a master of cool, a dapper disciple of Miles Davis and shares his idol’s love of melancholic trumpet runs. He and his band sublimely played Davis’ “Blue & Green,” Botti describing the song’s genius as one of “mood being more important than lyric or melody.” Botti may take musical cues from Davis, but if Miles evinced diffidence or disdain on stage, Botti shines with munificence and charm.
Campbell, who also frequently plays classical music with Andrea Bocelli, did a gorgeous duet with Botti on “Emmanuel” and later took a star turn during Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” (incorporating the Beatles “Yesterday,” “Yankee Doodle” and a country hoedown).
Djangirov had a masterful solo during a classical/jazz fusion piece, “Variations on Bach’s Prelude in C# Major.”
Botti didn’t bring out a vocalist until near the end of the first set, that being Sy Smith who belted out “The Very Thought of You.” Veronica Swift did “Embraceable You” and Jonathan Johnson sang the operatic “Time to Say Goodbye.”
Smith returned near the night’s end leading all through a romp of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” with Botti plucking two enthusiastic 9-year-old girls, Hyannis’s Angelina Lessa and Centerville’s Raelyn Vincent, from the crowd to go up on stage and dance. (After the show, they got to meet him and take photos.)
It was a night of spirited music, racing across multiple genres, and witty chat. Botti once again called the Melody Tent “one of our favorite venues in the world to play,” and, while veteran concertgoers may smile and hear that compliment as business-as-usual baloney, I get the sense Botti means it, digging the intimacy this theater-in-the-round experience gives.
Naples Daily News
Harriet Howard Heithaus, firstname.lastname@example.org; 239-213-6091
If Chris Botti’s full 10-second note holds, his impeccable riffs and repertoire from Herbie Hancock to Harold Arlen aren’t enough, how does a coterie of three singers sound?
Or would you prefer a Brazilian guitar virtuoso who’s on Botti’s latest disc with that? How about a violinist who can dance across the stage while she tucks phrases from Rimsky-Korsakov and Paganini into her jazz solo. And she’s playing all that on a 1735 Guarneri from the Chicago Stradivarius Society.
Botti brought an entourage that could snap, crackle and pop to his sold-out house at Artis—Naples on Monday, eliminating any risk of people — or himself — getting lip fatigue. He was a presence on nearly every piece except Sandy Cameron’s agile violin pastiche, and was as willing to jump in quietly with the right note as to craft an aching solo on “You Don’t Know What Love Is.”
Abbreviations of recorded works, such as on his “Impressions” disc, opened the show, and right out of the box Botti brought in fellow performers like Cameron get things sizzling and Brazilian guitar star Leonardo Amuedo to metamorphose into a romantic mood.
He pulled from his bag of classic Botti booty: “Emanuel,” “When I Fall in Love,” “For All We Know,” “Venice” and “The Look of Love,” personifying that citrus-clean tone he’s known for, even in the thorniest of runs. But Botti yielded the floor for audience warmers such as Sy Smith’s vaulting performance of “Let’s Stay Together.” Al Green would have been proud.
Botti is a master in timing, mood and style, as his discs show, and his performance was just as impeccably timed. After a sweet rendition of the Carpenters’ “For All We Know” that had him wandering among the audience, he brought out young jazz chanteuse Veronica Swift to scat in vocal somersaults on “There Will Never Be Another You.” Swift then applied her silky Ella Fitzgerald vibe to “Embraceable You.”
Botti rarely left the stage, punctuating others’ solos without overwhelming them, the mark of a pro. This pro has had practice, of course, backing up singers from Natalie Cole to Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon and Sting. He understands the critical need for appropriate dynamics and applied it to every song Monday.
Nor did he skimp on talent. Amuedo, who’s a headliner in his own country, created acoustic warmth but also popped out for a stinging electric guitar solo. And Botti should follow Geoffrey Keezer, his current pianist, to the ends of the Earth. Keezer, an alum of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, can filagree nearly any standard in a way that gives it new allure and pull riffs from gospel to classical at the right time, right virtuosity, right everything.
Botti has similarly skilled colleagues in drummer Lee Pearson, double bassist Richie Goods and his synthesizer performer, whose name wasn’t audible.
For those of us brought up in smoky lounges where the microphone was only for a vocalist, the electronically augmented concert-hall style of show takes some getting used to. Yet it didn’t diminish the impressive playing here. Even the enhancement on Cameron’s electric solo gave it the ability to surround the audience.
Cameron, like the others, is a star in her own right. She has toured with Valery Gergiev and the Kirov Orchestra, played the Verbier and White Nights festivals in Switzerland and Russia, is on the soundtrack of “Fifty Shades of Grey” and soloed for Cirque de Soleil’s “IRIS.”
Our only complaint about the concert was — even though the group played nearly two solid hours without intermission — that it wasn’t long enough. We would have loved to have heard more from operatic tenor Chad Johnson, who delivered a shortened verson of “Con Te Partiro (Time to Say Goodbye)” and then disappeared. It was mini-devastation, after expecting warmed-over Andrea Bocelli in the version and getting a strong, singular voice we would like to have heard again. Find something popera — “Nessun Dorma,” perhaps — to give him a little more time onstage.
It was two hours over too fast. It could have been a little less speedy had some of the audience not begun to decamp during the first encore. Is your house on fire?
Botti did return for a second closer, “The Nearness of You,” but a more attentive audience might have won one more song before the 10 p.m. witching hour.
The San Jose Jazz Summer Fest was quite the rollicking party — from George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic on Friday night through the Whispers closing things out on Sunday evening.
In between, trumpeteer Chris Botti put on one of the festival’s most amazing sets ever, elevating what it means to be a headliner at the festival. Botti ventured out into the audience a couple of times, had a singer on stage to sing Puccini and even brought a 9-year-old girl up on stage from the audience to play the drums.
Stephanie Adrian for Arts ATL
In 2008, jazz trumpeter Chris Botti produced and recorded his Grammy-nominated concert recording, Chris Botti in Boston with the Boston Pops Orchestra. The formula was foolproof, featuring duets with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Lucia Micarelli and such pop icons as Sting, John Mayer and Steven Tyler. Known as a marathon performer who takes the stage some 280 days a year, Botti and his electric band have recently launched a new tour and will see concert venues in Warsaw and Westhampton Beach, San Francisco and Seattle among countless other cities this year.
Botti arrived at Atlanta’s Symphony Hall on Friday night in an attempt to recreate the alchemy he had found years ago in Boston, yet with a different ensemble of guest artists accompanied by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under the direction of conductor Albert-George Schram.
Playing on a 1939 Martin Committee Handcraft Large Bore, Botti opened with Ennio Morricone’s theme “Gabriel’s Oboe” from The Mission in duet with violinist Caroline Campbell. Blonde and statuesque, Campbell is not only the first violinist in the Los Angeles-based Sonus Quartet, but is also a favorite collaborator for such illustrious artists as Andrea Bocelli and Barbra Streisand.
Appearing several times throughout the concert, Campbell’s playing is broad and at times fierce; she has impeccable intonation and executed string crossings and double stops with flair, prancing around the stage while playing Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.”
For each of the last 12 years, Chris Botti has spent the holidays at the Blue Note Jazz Club, bringing his trumpet, his high-gloss production values and his ace touring band. What began as a standard booking at the club has expanded into a monthlong residency, full of surprise drop-ins and celebrity cameos.
“It’s like a big party every night,” Mr. Botti said the other day, a week into his current run. “It’s also given me a chance to stretch the band out. We do 56 shows in 28 days, and we always come out of this a much stronger unit all around.”
A jazz-pop powerhouse who keeps a grueling tour schedule — he’s on the road some 280 nights out of the year — Mr. Botti also relishes that the engagement means staying in one place for a while. He talked about his seasonal tradition, and why he won’t be playing “Sleigh Bells.” These are excerpts from the conversation.
Trumpeter Chris Botti, who performed Friday night at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, has become an annual visitor to the Nicollet Mall concert venue. As usual, most of the hall’s seats were occupied, since the constantly touring Botti knows how to please audiences and keep them coming back for more.
The Grammy winner began his career as a jazz musician, but expanding his musical repertoire to embrace pop and rock has made Botti one of the top-selling instrumentalists ever; he’s sold more than 4 million CDs.
Earlier in his career, Botti did separate tours as a sideman backing two of the most successful pop artists of modern times: Paul Simon and Sting. Doing so gave Botti exposure to audiences beyond the somewhat limited jazz category, and he must have picked up some pointers on how to engage an audience and create a sense of intimacy, even in a large, rock-scale venue.
With CD and concert-ticket sales like his, Botti can afford to hire top-shelf musicians and singers, and that is what he does.
One of the most dramatic pieces of the 90-minute performance was Botti’s crystalline rendition of Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez,” which the late Miles Davis introduced to jazz fans on his “Sketches of Spain” album. He followed that with one of his own ballad hits, which some of the avid Botti fans in the audience recognized after just a couple of notes.
Then Botti quickly switched gears, blowing brassy midrange riffs over an electric funk tune designed to showcase the group’s powerhouse drummer, Lee Pearson.
Botti the ballad specialist reprised a couple of jazz standards, “When I Fall In Love” and the moody “You Don’t Know What Love Is.” The group used the latter piece as a launching pad for an uptempo instrumental workout with Pearson, bassist Richie Goods, Botti and pianist Taylor Eigsti alternating high-flying solos at a breakneck pace.
Botti also honored the recently departed singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, spotlighting guitarist Ben Butler on an instrumental version of Cohen’s signature piece, “Hallelujah.”
Another instrumental virtuoso touring with the group is violinist Corline Campbell, who earned a standing ovation with a briskly played solo classical piece.
Botti’s traveling troupe also includes a couple of show-stopping vocal talents. One of them is dazzling R&B singer Sy Smith, who was part of “The Tonight Show” band during Jay Leno’s tenure. Smith raised the roof with a soaring version of “The Very Thought of You,” showing off her stunning vocal range, at times vocally resembling the singer Randy Crawford.
Then she and Botti traded stratospheric high notes on a rendition of “The Look of Love,” a tune featured on Botti’s Grammy-winning “live” DVD.
Several years ago Botti paid homage to his Italian roots with an album called “Italia,” co-writing the title track with the great operatic tenor Andrea Bocelli and performing it with him in Italy. Near the end of Friday night’s concert, Botti brought out a lesser-known but also impressive opera singer named Rafael Moras to reprise the dramatic piece.
Dan Emerson is a freelance writer and musician in Minneapolis.
NAPA, California, November 9, 2016 – Blue Note Napa had its grand opening last week, shimmering with sparkle and pizzazz. Grammy award-winning jazz trumpet great Chris Botti opened the festivities at this swanky new downtown Napa club, and they could not have found a better act to christen the sloop.
The Blue Note, mostly known for its club in New York City, has a long-standing reputation as one of the best live jazz venues in the world. Bay Area jazz and blues lovers can rejoice and celebrate the arrival of this legendary club on America’s Left Bank.
The Blue Note is known for its intimacy and gritty vibe that pulses from the stage. Could Napa truly capture the essence of NYC jazz and blues in the heart of California wine country? The answer is a resounding yes!
From the blue hue that hums throughout the space to the vintage horns visually blaring from the walls and a stage that that puts each act right the midst of music fans in attendance, this Napa club vibrates with and actually captures the true feeling of Blue Note NY.
The vibe of opening week, with Botti taking main stage, was electric. The crowd was riled up, almost like a down and dirty blues show more than an elegant night of jazz. But Botti embraced the vocal and highly enthusiastic crowd.
Botti is truly a renaissance man when it comes to music. He’s collaborated with rock, classical, R&B and blues musicians aplenty. With four-million+ albums sold, he has discovered a form of creative expression that begins in jazz and expands beyond the limits of any single genre. Botti has thoroughly established himself as one of the foremost innovative figures of the contemporary music world without a doubt.
The top two highlights of a great night:
Guest violinist Lucia Micarelli was given the stage by Botti in appreciation of her incredible talent. As she slowly began to pull her bow methodically across the strings, the crowd was cleverly teased with a melody that they didn’t quite recognize. As the reverberations from her bow increased, the volume increased to a level that matched her energizing presence on stage as she seamlessly broke into Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” The crowd was aroused to near-ecstasy as her violin replicated the high-pitched vocals of Robert Plant.
Botti closed the night with “My Funny Valentine.” There was an excited murmur running through the energized crowd, which then slowly ebbed like a wave dying down as it reaches the shore. With each weepy note, the crowd became increasingly quiet, mesmerized by the clarity and perfect pitch of each note Botti played. This is jazz. This is the Blue Note.