by John Shand
Blowing the trumpet on a scintillating act
The Basement, August 23 FORGET the pretty-boy image, the Sting-derived celebrity and the lapses of taste. Chris Botti is a brilliant trumpeter accompanied by one of the great bands to visit Sydney in recent years.
He is the biggest-selling jazz instrumentalist, partly because he is also the ultimate cross-over artist, embracing funk, classical, rock and cocktail music.
Performing live the truth will out, especially in a crucible like the Basement. After opening with Ave Maria – showing off his tonal purity and breath control – Botti eased into When I Fall In Love. This was not exactly reassuring, as Andy Ezrin’s synthesiser washes seemed designed to allay any threat of real jazz.
But suddenly the ballad erupted into lava-hot funk, then became even more explosively free, with thrilling interaction between Botti and the drummer Billy Kilson.
This was highest-calibre jazz, which Billy Childs sustained with one of the most gripping and multi-faceted piano solos I have heard in years.
Just when it seemed we were safe, the willow-limbed violinist Caroline Campbell joined Botti in tossing us a light classical lolly for no discernible reason.
However, he redeemed himself with an unforgettable Flamenco Sketches. The plaintiveness of Miles Davis’s original was soon forged into platinum trumpet blasts over a scorching band (completed by the guitarist Mark Whitfield and the bassist Tim Lefebvre): wondrous jazz to restore faith and convert sceptics.
The wonder lingered when Botti gave a beautiful reading of Cohen’s Hallelujah against the guitar, although creeping synth washes undermined the intimacy.
The singer Lisa Fischer, of Rolling Stones fame, only strengthened the show. On a rabidly funky The Look of Love, she slid between a sumptuous contralto and a dazzling top end, while Whitfield gave a master-class in rhythm guitar.
As she enthralled us for four songs, the band became ever more dangerous.
If further overblown silliness occasionally punctuated the magic, Botti was as charming between songs as he was scintillating during them. Do not miss this band.
The National Theatre, St Kilda,
Reviewer: Siimon Plant
Back arched and blowing hard, Chris Botti creates sounds of almost Alpine purity. But this American jazz trumpeter can swing low as well, coaxing achingly beautiful blue notes from his gleaming instrument.
No wonder Botti earned standing ovations for his single Melbourne show.
Right from the start, Botti’s band (pianist Billy Childs, drummer Billy Kilson, guitarist Mark Whitfield, bassman Tim Lefebvre, Andrew Ezrin on keyboards) demonstrated awesome power and precision. Childs was a demon on the grand piano. Kilson’s percussive drive was simply astouonding.
Two guest artists – violinist Caroline Campbell and singer Lisa Fischer – combined magnificently on Italia…the night’s big closer. But Botti had the last word. Wading into the audience, he reeled off an unplugged version of Frank Sinatra’s One For My Baby and had everyone baying for more.
Christiane Amanpour, CNN veteran and brand-new anchor of ABC’s This Week, reports on the contents of her purse. Marie Claire, September 2010
by Dione Joseph, Australia Stage
On Sunday night there was only one place to be for all jazz fans. And that was at the National theatre with none other than the legendary Chris Botti!
A superb evening was had by all and not only because Botti can wield his trumpet with all the dignity and class of a king but also because he was magnificently assisted by a transformational five piece band. These outstanding musicians included Gugenheimer fellowship recipient and twice Grammy award winning pianist Billy Childs, “ridiculously bad ass drummer” Billy Kilson, “bad boy of jazz” Mark Whitfield, bassist Michael Valerio and keyboardist Andy Ezrin.
If Botti was the star of the night he was closely followed by a shower of meteorites. No sooner had he transfixed the audience with the magic of his instrument did he introduce world famous violinist Caroline Campbell who joined Botti in an exquisite duet of Emmanuel. And the fun didn’t stop there.
Lisa Fischer, female vocalist for the past 15 years with Rolling Stones joined Botti on stage for some classic renditions of Good Morning Heartache, an absolutely amazing Italia, and Nat King Cole favorite: The Very Thought of You.
Botti also shared all time favorite Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen with lead guitarist Mark Whitfield creating a powerful hush over the sell out crowd gathered to witness “one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written.”
Easily building a rapport with the audience Botti shared jokes, history and the driving force behind his choice to become a trumpeter, Miles Davis, who inspired him to continue the trend of slowing jazz down. As a tribute to the album Kind of Blue, Botti and his band dedicated their own version of the Flamenco sketch to the memory of a man who had the vision and enterprise to change jazz music.
Botti also won the audience over by making friends – including a very lucky 13 year old (also a trumpet player!) who walked away brimming with smiles after Botti congratulated him and his parents for not succumbing to the demands of instant gratification that many of us are caught up in today.
For nearly two hours Chris Botti, his band and his extraordinary guests transported Melbourne on a journey towards rediscovering the beauty of jazz and the magic of making melodies with your soul. A night that earned the artists a standing ovation from Melbourne’s jazz fans and gave us an intimate jazz experience like no other.