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Concert Review: Live at The Greek Theatre

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.

Concert Review: Live at The Greek Theatre

By Don Heckman

Chris Botti’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 shouldn’t they. Botti’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 – pianist Billy Childs, guitarist Mark Whitfield, keyboardist Geoff Keezer, bassist Carlos Henriquez and drummer Billy Kilson. And his two guest stars – violinist Lucia Micarelli and singer Lisa Fischer – quickly revealed the capacity to steal a show from anybody.

Good ingredients are vital, of course, whether it’s putting together an entertaining show or making a memorable lasagna. But equally important is the way they’re put together. And Botti’s pacing and his sequencing were beautifully done.

Start with a lyrical “Ave Maria” to assure the audience members eagerly anticipating the Botti sound. Then switch into an exploratory “When I Fall In Love,” 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 “Caruso,” from his Italia album.

By this point, all the pieces were beginning to smoothly fit into place. A loose romp through Miles Davis’ “Sketches of Spain” 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 “Emmanuel” duet between Botti and the gorgeous drama of Micarelli’s violin playing.

The evening’s second half took everything up another level. Among the highlights: a loose-limbed romp through “Good Morning Heartache,” 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 Morricone’s gorgeous love theme melody from the film Cinema Paradiso.

And, perhaps most intriguing of all, the gripping vocal magic of Lisa Fischer. Although she’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 – from “The Look of Love” and “The Very Thought of You” to her counter tenor version of Andrea Bocelli’s vocal on “Italia” 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 – with the sole accompaniment of Childs’ piano – “One For My Baby (And One More For the Road).” 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.

Miles Davis Podcast: Chris Botti

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

Miles Davis Podcast: Chris Botti

Botti’s performance registers high

By Peter Landsdowne – TELEGRAM & GAZETTE REVIEWER

WORCESTER —  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.