By L. PIERCE CARSON, Napa Valley Register
Spending 300 days on the road each year doesnâ€™t leave a lot of time for much else.
Jazz trumpeter Chris Botti (pronounced â€˜bohtiâ€™) wouldnâ€™t have it any other way. He loves performing for music lovers the world over.
Botti and a band of inspired musicians will be touring both South Africa and Australia for the first time this year.
â€œYouâ€™d be surprised how many (successful) musicians arenâ€™t known outside this country,â€ the lanky, blond, blue-eyed 47-year-old musician said while warming up for his third appearance at the Robert Mondavi Winery Saturday night.
Botti and band will be on tour through early spring next year and then, and only then, will the popular jazz artist take time from the road to work on a new recording. At this point, heâ€™s just not sure what tack the new CD will take.
â€œIâ€™m just happy to be working,â€ he declared, â€œgrateful for being able to go into so many different parts of the world. Weâ€™ll also be touring Asia and this will be my seventh appearance in Poland.â€ Heâ€™ll also have stops in both London and Berlin, another cross-country tour and a two-week holiday run at the famed Blue Note in New Yorkâ€™s Greenwich Village at the end of the year. Heâ€™ll return to the Bay Area in September for a show at Villa Montalvo in Saratoga, he told last weekendâ€™s sell-out crowd of 1,400-plus at the landmark Oakville winery.
Saturdayâ€™s performance was the second Botti and company had offered in the Napa Valley in the span of a week. Last weekend, they were featured on the bill for the 125th anniversary celebration of Far Niente Winery, along with violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet. In fact, Thibaudet stuck around this past week to perform at Festival del Sole dates throughout the valley and came to Saturdayâ€™s Mondavi event, which was featured as a Festival del Sole offering.
Coming to prominence with the 2001 recording of the â€œNight Sessionsâ€ CD, Botti has established a reputation as a versatile musician in both jazz and pop music for his ability to fuse both styles together. His PBS television programs and brilliant recordings, as well as frequent appearances in concert halls, have made Botti a household name.
Botti appeared here as well at Lincoln Theater two years ago with an outstanding group of musicians in tow. Back with Botti Saturday night was consummate pianist Billy Childs, who has arranged material for such artists as Sting, Gladys Knight, Michael BublÃ© and Dianne Reeves, with whom he last appeared here at the Mondavi summer festival. While the Grammy Award-winner is a significant jazz voice, he was on restricted duty the other night as he had injured a hand. Taking the lead on keyboards in various band jams was another top-flight keyboardist, Geoffrey Keezer.
Also returning was guitarist Mark Whitfield, a remarkable improviser. A student of the Wes Montgomery/George Benson school of jazz guitar, Whitfield was discovered by Benson and launched his solo career more than two decades ago. Whitfield has a brilliant melodic sense and chops to match. His extended solo on Miles Davisâ€™ â€œFlamenco Sketchesâ€ made the blood run hot.
Equally talented string player Carlos Enrique, a relative newcomer, gave the eveningâ€™s repertoire a lot of funky bottom, whether Enrique was playing standup or electric bass.
One of the worldâ€™s elite drummers, Billy Kilson is also a member of Bottiâ€™s musical posse. Kilson demonstrated speed, dexterity and a playful mood the other night. Botti brands Kilson as the worldâ€™s best â€œbad assâ€ drummer. Few would argue with that assessment after taking in Saturdayâ€™s concert.
Lucia Micarelli is back on the tour, Botti noted, after recovering remarkably from an almost devastating hand injury. Sheâ€™s an exceptional violinist who traded leads with Botti on Ennio Morriconeâ€™s haunting â€œLove Theme from Cinema Paradiso.â€
Grammy Award-winning vocalist Lisa Fischer (â€œHow Can I Ease the Pain?â€) provided distinguished, memorable interpretations of standards, such as â€œThe Very Thought of You,â€ and displayed a funky, playful side with Burt Bacharachâ€™s â€œThe Look of Love.â€ Sheâ€™s a great addition to the lineup.
Additional highlights included a silky arrangement by Botti and Whitfield of Leonard Cohenâ€™s â€œHallelujahâ€ and a rip-roaring arrangement of â€œIndian Summerâ€ that closed the choice second set.
Bottiâ€™s two hour show was remarkable for a couple of reasons. Of course, we were awed by the incredible talent on display.
But there was also another notable element that has been missing at Mondavi for some time now. It was the sound of respect. When the headliner played a quiet note, took a necessary breath, or his outstanding vocalist whispered a familiar lyric, we could hear, we could relate. You could hear the proverbial pin drop. This was a crowd that had come to listen to the music, not to impress one another with recent exploits. This was a crowd showing respect to those around them, not the bunch of rowdies thatâ€™ve shown up for once-upon-a-time nightclub acts, dance bands and blowzy has-bands weâ€™ve come to accept in recent Mondavi seasons.
Would that we could return to this caliber of concert and audience a couple of times each season at least. Well, hope springs eternal.
By Amy Balsam – Examiner.com, Los Angeles
On Saturday, July 10, 2010, one year and a day after his sold out show at The Greek Theatre in 2009, Chris Botti, the #1 selling American jazz instrumental artist and one of the hardest working men in show business, returned for another incredible evening of music. Joined onstage by some of the best musicians in the business, Chris and his band performed for his fans under the L.A. sky, giving a performance that led to multiple standing ovations throughout the night.
Chris started the evening out with the beautiful “Ava Maria” and then switched gears to “When I Fall In Love”, (a song originally recorded by Doris Day and then covered by a wide range of artists from Nat King Cole, Kenny Rogers, Celine Dion and Boyz II Men featuring Michael Buble) on which award winning pianist Billy Childs dazzled with his improvisational skills. Later in the show, Chris told the tale of performing at a wedding in Tuscany at which he was joined onstage by his good friend Sting, to much delight by the bride and groom to have their two favorite artists share in their special day. When Chris and the band were leaving the wedding, violinist Lucia Micarelli fell and a glass went through her hand, threatening to put an end to her incredible musical career. The tale has a happy ending, as Chris asked the doctor who operated on Lucia’s hand and who created a very successful rehab program for her, to stand in the audience where he was greeted with a standing ovation and cheers from the fans. Lucia then joined Chris onstage to duet on “Emmanuel” and each note she played was beautifully haunting. Chris and Lucia were reunited onstage later in the show for another enchanting duet on the love theme from the film Cinema Paradiso, which Chris shared is his favorite movie.
The incomparable songstress and Grammy winner Lisa Fischer joined Chris onstage to duet on “Good Morning Heartache”, which also showcased drummer Billy Kilson’s immense talent. Billy led an impromptu jam session with the crowd chanting George Clinton’s “We Got The Funk” and he definitely brought the funk on this number. You could tell how much fun Billy was having with this song as his larger than life personality was shining bright with each hit of his drumsticks. Lisa and Chris performed a very sexy rendition of “The Look of Love” which showcased Lisa’s smooth vocals and soulful style. Then Lisa absolutely amazed the audience with her singing of Andrea Bocelli’s part on the operatic hit “Italia” co-written by Chris and David Foster.
In between songs, Chris was as warm and engaging as ever, talking with the audience as if he was reunited with old friends, which is yet another reason to appreciate one of the most likable talents in the music industry. Chris’ shows have a very welcoming and intimate feel to them. You can tell he leaves his heart on the stage every night and he truly loves what he does. He is so gracious in publicly praising the musical geniuses he shares the stage with, and throughout his concert steps to the side to give each member of the band their moment in the spotlight. He is quick to acknowledge the talents of guitarist Mark Whitfield, keyboardist Geoff Keezer, bassist Carlos Henriquez, drummer Billy Kilson and pianist Billy Childs. You can tell they all love playing together and Chris Botti and his band are a real musical family.
It is evident from attending one of his shows, that Chris Botti is a real class act! He closed the show by inviting a 13 year old aspiring trumpet player and his family to come join him in the front row where he encouraged him to follow his dream of being a professional musician and impressed upon him the importance of practicing his craft. He said the teenage trumpet player is the future of music and Chris treated this young musician like he was a rockstar at the Greek Theatre that night.
Chris ended the show up close and personal strolling through the audience with a stripped down version of “One For My Baby (And One More For The Road”) accompanied only by Billy Child’s on piano. It was the perfect end to a perfect show.
By Don Heckman
Chris Bottiâ€™s traveling road show made its annual appearance at the Greek Theatre Saturday night. And the enthusiastic, near capacity crowd loved every minute of the two hour performance.
And why shouldnâ€™t they. Bottiâ€™s warm and engaging trumpet sound is one of the most appealing timbres on the contemporary jazz scene. He was backed by a sterling ensemble of players â€“ pianist Billy Childs, guitarist Mark Whitfield, keyboardist Geoff Keezer, bassist Carlos Henriquez and drummer Billy Kilson. And his two guest stars â€“ violinist Lucia Micarelli and singer Lisa Fischer â€“ quickly revealed the capacity to steal a show from anybody.
Good ingredients are vital, of course, whether itâ€™s putting together an entertaining show or making a memorable lasagna. But equally important is the way theyâ€™re put together. And Bottiâ€™s pacing and his sequencing were beautifully done.
Start with a lyrical â€œAve Mariaâ€ to assure the audience members eagerly anticipating the Botti sound. Then switch into an exploratory â€œWhen I Fall In Love,â€ showcasing some of the most musically adventurous passages of the night, provided by the improvisationally exploratory imagination of Childs. Follow up with more Botti lyricism, this time in a reading of â€œCaruso,â€ from his Italia album.
By this point, all the pieces were beginning to smoothly fit into place. A loose romp through Miles Davisâ€™ â€œSketches of Spainâ€ allowed Botti to stretch his commendable solo chops (compensating for his somewhat confused introductory assessment of the importance of the Davis Kind of Blue album). And the evening hit its first peak with the stunning â€œEmmanuelâ€ duet between Botti and the gorgeous drama of Micarelliâ€™s violin playing.
The eveningâ€™s second half took everything up another level. Among the highlights: a loose-limbed romp through â€œGood Morning Heartache,â€ performed with plenty of improvisational spunk, despite its minimal connection with either the meaning or the intent of the song itself; another musically intimate duet between Botti and Micarelli, this time with Ennio Morriconeâ€™s gorgeous love theme melody from the film Cinema Paradiso.
And, perhaps most intriguing of all, the gripping vocal magic of Lisa Fischer. Although sheâ€™s had a kind of major league visibility singing back-up for the likes of Luther Vandross and the Rolling Stones, Fischer is an extraordinary artist in her own right. And the interpretive range she displayed â€“ from â€œThe Look of Loveâ€ and â€œThe Very Thought of Youâ€ to her counter tenor version of Andrea Bocelliâ€™s vocal on â€œItaliaâ€ was the stuff of a major league talent. The time is overdue for her solo career to take off.
Botti, who engaged the audience in entertaining fashion with his between songs remarks ended the night in appropriately up close fashion, turning off all the amplification and strolling into the crowd to play â€“ with the sole accompaniment of Childsâ€™ piano â€“ â€œOne For My Baby (And One More For the Road).â€ Appropriate, because of the intimacy of the way it was done. And appropriate because the Chris Botti traveling road show was on its way again, heading north for a midweek date in Milwaukee.
Versatile trumpeter Chris Botti might be the biggest Miles Davis fan that I have ever met. There is nothing that Chris does not know about Miles, his trumpet artistry, recordings and legacy. His energy on the subject is boundless and on this podcast episode, you will hear that passion for yourself.
– Joseph Vella
By Peter Landsdowne – TELEGRAM & GAZETTE REVIEWER
WORCESTER â€” Poor Chris Botti. The talented trumpeter with the tousled blond hair made People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People list in 2004; and ever since then, some jazz aficionados have accused him of being a musical lightweight. Wrong!
Botti sent his detractors packing last night at The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts during “An Evening with Chris Botti,” which was presented by Music Worcester Inc. as part of the Worcester Music Festival. Backed by his band (acoustic pianist Billy Childs, electric keyboardist Andy Ezrin, guitarist Mark Whitfield, bassist Robert Hurst, and drummer Billy Kilson), the trumpeter turned in a solid two-hour-long concert that showed that he knows how to handle the horn. An audience of 2,000 Botti fans packed the venue.
Botti began the concert with just pianist Childs backing him on a reverential version of “Ave Maria.” Botti’s beautifully burnished trumpet tone was much in evidence on this selection, as was his range. His sustained high note that ended the piece served as a cue for the rest of the band to take the stage.
The trumpeter’s take on the standard “When I Fall in Love” had Botti playing a sonic tribute to trumpeter Miles Davis, one of his acknowledged influences. Botti began the song with a wistful interpretation of the melody before drummer Childs doubled the tempo. Botti responded with a muscular trumpet improvisation that featured a bold and brassy sound and some deft valve work that pointed toward another influence on Botti, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. It should be noted here that pianist Childs once performed with Hubbard and that Botti once studied with trumpeter Woody Shaw, Hubbard’s successor in the jazz trumpet lineage.
Botti switched gears on an operatic “Caruso,” which the trumpeter dedicated to Pavarotti. Electric keyboardist Ezrin provided some orchestral effects as Botti provided a superb example of what trumpet players call “singing on the horn.” The composition was a selection from Botti’s popular DVD “Chris Botti in Boston,” as was “Emmanuelle,” which featured special guest Lucia Micarelli on violin. Micarelli was also on board for a haunting duet with Botti on Italian film composer Ennio Morricine’s “Love Theme from Cinema Paradiso.”
Singer Nicki Richards, another special guest that Botti plucked from Madonna’s contingent of backup vocalists, nearly stole the show during her three-song stint with the trumpeter and his band. She belted out the pop classic “The Look of Love” before toning things down on “The Very Thought of You,” another classic from The Great American Songbook. Botti contributed a beautifully crafted a capella trumpet solo as an introduction to the latter tune, which ended with the trumpeter ascending chromatically into his trumpet’s high register.
Singer Richards and Botti transformed the Billie Holiday ballad “Good Morning Heartache” by performing it over drummer Kilson’s funk groove. Botti’s powerful trumpet solo included a nice touch: A quote from trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia.” Richards picked up the riff and intoned it in unison with Botti’s horn to end the tune.
Botti was at his jazzy best on “Flamenco Sketches,” a selection from the classic Miles Davis album “Kind of Blue.” The trumpeter invited Boston-based alto saxophonist Grace Kelly to the stage to duet with him on this one. Just 18 years old, Kelly is being touted as an up and coming jazz star, an observation that she reinforced with her searing solo on “Flamenco Sketches.” Botti responded with a smoldering solo that quickly caught fire and drew some spontaneous applause from the crowd.
Drummer Kilson’s bombastic drum solo on “Indian Summer,” not the standard of the same name but another tune in a funk groove, garnered a standing ovation from the audience. Botti promised an encore, which he prefaced by asking any young musicians in the crowd to identify themselves. The trumpeter then gave one 9-year-old piano student the thrill of her musical life by escorting her to the stage to sit by pianist Childs as Botti, who by this time was three rows deep in the crowd, played a fervent version of Frank Sinatra’s “One for My Baby” with just Childs backing him up.
It was a nice gesture, as was Botti’s suggestion to the parents in the crowd that if they want to wean their kids from the instant gratification of the Internet, video games, and other such pursuits, have them learn how to play a musical instrument. Judging from the brisk sales of Botti’s CDs in the lobby after the concert, there’ll be plenty of trumpets under the tree come Christmas.
Last year, I met an incredible young man and fellow trumpeter named Simon at my show in Krakow, Poland. I just received terrible news that he was involved in an auto accident and is severely injured. He’s currently recovering at the hospital but could definitely use any words of encourgement to lift his spirits. I’ve created a post in the forum section of my website with the hopes that all the other fans out there can send good wishes his way.
THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS
By Rachael Recker
Chris Botti quickly raised an index finger above his trumpet, pointed it Thursday evening at the DeVos Performance Hall audience and immediately silenced a prematurely clapping attendee.
The 47-year-old jazz musician, two-time Grammy winner and old-school entertainer didn’t want the zealous listener to miss the most entrancing moment of “The Very Thought of You,” as “bad boy of jazz” guitarist Mark Whitfield closed out the Nat King Cole tune in a smartly intricate, borderline-inaudible decrescendo.But that’s the control Botti has over his audience.
After innumerable standing ovations, it was clear the half-full DeVos Hall crowd appreciated the control he had over his round-, smooth- and clear-sounding instrument and the control also harnessed by his five-member band and two guests.
At 7:37, an announcer welcomed Botti to the darkened stage “without further ado.” Botti immediately ambled onto the stage with 2009 Guggenheim- and two-time-Grammy-winning (and eight-time-nominated) pianist Billy Childs and keyboardist Andy Ezrin.
A subdued piano and keys provided the backdrop to Botti’s particularly slow-tempoed, satisfying rendition of “Ave Maria.” Eventually the rest of the band — bassist Michael Valerio, drummer Billy Kilson and Whitfield — filtered on stage to beef up the song as Botti assured the crowd of the evening’s ensuing high-caliber musicianship with a minute-long note hold.
Botti’s note was so long the audience found time to clap twice and even laugh in astonishment. It was just the beginning.
Botti, who has made a career by slowing down jazz and focusing on the melody and emotion he can emit from a beautifully toned trumpet, further proved his jazz prowess by letting things get a little raw and up-tempo with the evening’s second number, “When I Fall In Love.”
What began lightly with Botti using his hand as a mute turned into a more intense building of noise, with Kilson’s drums clattering and symbols crashing.
“Here we go,” Botti shouted as he listened to Childs lead the third song. Childs immediately displayed why he’s just better: Dynamic and powerful, he impressed with an up-tempo, turbulent ending.
“After a piano solo like that, there’s nothing else to say, Grand Rapids, than ‘Goodnight,'” said Botti, who addressed the crowd for the first time.
Botti made easy conversation with the audience throughout the evening as he chatted about being a college dropout and a relentless touring artist, performing 300 days a year. He also admitted to being anti-Twitter and Facebook and expressed his dismay that few children today pursue music.
But it was the music, not the chatting, that kept the evening’s energy high, yet relaxed.
Botti demonstrated the beauty of notes slowly emerging from silence in “Caruso.” Both he, Whitfield and Ezrin provided one of the highlights of the night with their bare-bones rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
Guest violinist Caroline Campbell shared one of the evening’s most mesmerizing moments when she and Botti harmonized in a duet at the end of “Emmanuel,” off of his “Chris Botti in Boston” DVD/CD.
Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Lisa Fischer, who is touring with The Rolling Stones, stopped by for three songs — including Cole’s “The Very Thought of You” and Burt Bacharach’s “The Look of Love” — and proved stage presence is equally as important as vocals.
But it was Kilson who stole the latter part of the show with a multi-groove drum solo that had jaws dropping all over DeVos Hall.
“I needed a drummer who would piss Sting off,” said Botti, who used to open for the artist.
Kilson held the show until Botti ended it as he typically does on tour — in the audience, unplugged, playing … well, I don’t remember.
The thing is, Botti didn’t get too far into his encore from the third row before noticing the reporter’s notepad on my lap from my seat in the fourth row.
“What are you writing?” he said, interrupting the song.
More playing ensued, until this: “Did you like the show?” And this: “You can keep writing, I’m just kidding.”
As I said, I don’t remember much about the encore, especially since Botti stared me down during much of it from a foot away. Thanks, man.
The frequent Grand Rapids concertgoers sitting next to me wanted to make sure I said one thing in my review: “Tell them Grand Rapids is so lucky to have Chris Botti.”
Done. Hopefully I also showed them why.
For those living in Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware, Chris will be visiting WHYY TV 12 on Sunday, March 21st during the airing of “Chris Botti In Boston Part 2”. Tune in at 2:30pm and 9:00pm EDT for a special ticket offer! Check your local listings for more info.
Also, for those of you living in the Los Angeles area, KCET in Los Angeles will be re-airing “Chris Botti In Boston Part 2” March 20th at 8:30pm and March 21st at 8:00pm PDT.
Check out Chris in Katharine McPhee’s latest Webisode!