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Chris Botti: Sting’s belief in me is why I have a career

The Philippine Daily Inquirer by Pocholo Concepcion

Like Madonna’s two-night concerts last week, Chris Botti’s coming gig with Sting on March 3 at the Marriott Grand Ballroom has pricey tickets.

That’s understandable, considering you’ll be watching two major artists in one show.

This marks the first time Botti and Sting will perform together in Manila.

They first worked together in 1999, when Botti was invited as a featured soloist on Sting’s Brand New Day tour. Botti and Sting recently had an e-mail chat with Inquirer Lifestyle.

Chris, you studied and worked hard as a musician before achieving success. Can you recall a few instances which you consider turning points in your journey, and why?

Meeting Sting, by far. It’s his friendship that I’m most proud of in my life. If I were to look at any accomplishment or association, by a long shot it’s my friendship with him. We’re family now, and his belief in me is the reason why I have a career, I can trace it to that. We get along so well and have become so close; to have such respect and admiration for someone and have it returned is truly amazing.

What he does and the way he conducts his life, I try in many ways to emulate. It’s based on being on the road a lot, the dedication you get from music, performing the music, landing in a city and getting straight to yoga, maintaining the practice – all those things that I have picked up from him have helped me enormously in my career.

When I was in his band, he gave me so much exposure by doing solos with me. But it was his urging that really made me, and the opportunity to be his opening act throughout the world that really launched my career in a big-time way. He’s always been my biggest supporter, best friend, and my big brother, really.

If you were to advise young musicians who want to widen their knowledge of jazz, which album would you recommend that they start with, and why?

I can’t say I have just one album I’d recommend. I’m always listening to Miles Davis’ “My Funny Valentine” (a live album recorded during a concert at the Philharmonic Hall of Lincoln Center, New York, on Feb. 12, 1964, and released Feb. 23, 1965 on the Columbia label); Keith Jarrett’s “The Melody At Night, With You” (recorded at his home studio in 1998, released on ECM in 1999); and “Frank Sinatra Sings For Only the Lonely” (a collection of torch songs, released September 1958 on Capitol).

You and Sting have played in the Philippines on separate occasions, not together onstage. How are you preparing for this show?

I honestly have had many people, like my friends, come to me and go, “Chris, I’m coming to your show tomorrow, I have never seen you play before, so is it just you and the trumpet?” They don’t realize it’s a night with an incredible jazz group, which moves around from classical to jazz to pop, and you have all these lines being blurred and it’s incredibly fun! Afterwards, people say, “I had no idea it would be like that.” We crafted it over many years of trial and a lot of errors.

I obsess about my show all day because I want it to be musically entertaining and also musically “high-end” for the fans… It’s not lost on me that we have fans who buy tickets, take a night off and come to the show. It means so much.

What is the one guilty pleasure that you look forward to whenever you’re home or on holiday?

Honestly, I’m not very good at relaxing and I don’t really go on holiday. I’m a bit of a workaholic, although I don’t view it as work. I’ve been doing the same thing since I was 9 years old; it’s just that now I get paid to do it, it’s awesome!

I practice yoga and enjoy playing chess, but being on tour and playing for my fans is what I look forward to every day. We’re on the road 300 days a year and people ask, “How do you have a life?” I don’t, but I wouldn’t change anything.

Sting, in the past, you’ve collaborated with a number of prominent musicians, lately with Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel. What’s the greatest insight you’ve gained from everything?

I’ve been fortunate to work with many supremely talented musicians over the years. I tend to surround myself with people whom I can learn something from, and my strategy has always been to play with musicians better than myself. I maintain a childlike curiosity about music, along with a sense that I need to work at it. I never want to stop learning.

What’s it like to perform with Chris Botti?

Chris brings the trumpet to its most poetic, vocal-like quality. He’s altogether unique in that respect. His sound provides a compelling complement to my vocals and it’s always a true joy to perform with him.

You’ve played and experimented with practically all kinds of music. Which genre would you say is closest to your heart, and why?

I enjoy the creative freedom I have and the ability to do what interests me. I get bored pretty easily, and so I always like to do something new and that is hopefully surprising. I think my audience has come to expect that element of surprise.

This will be the first time that you and Botti will be playing in the Philippines. What excites you about it?

It gives you a chance to show an audience you’re a real human being; you still sweat and sometimes make mistakes. That close up, everything’s kind of human, which I like. I still get a buzz from being on stage. There’s no way to describe the feeling of playing for people who are pleased to see you. That’s something you can’t be blasé about.

What new things have you learned from aging?

I tend to live in the moment and don’t really think too much about the future or necessarily about the past. I recently celebrated my 64th birthday, and I’m glad that I’m my age. It’s fun because I have both sides of it – a bit of wisdom and the energy of a younger man.

 

Live review: Chris Botti and Sting are a solid double act at The Dubai Jazz Festival

The National by Saeed Saeed

If you are going to have Sting waiting in the wings as a special guest, then your show needs to be strong enough to starve off the anticipation. Chris Botti did a reasonable job of that with his Dubai Jazz Festival performance on Thursday night.

Joined by a near dozen strong backing band, the popular American trumpeter serenaded the packed crowd to an evening of jazz standards and reinterpretations of pop classics.

However, the Botti on stage is a different performer to his multimillion selling albums.

Where those records were nocturnal affairs and a soundtrack of choice for dinner parties, the 53 year old was much looser live as he indulged in several feats of dazzling improvisations among arrangements ranging from big band to straight out rock.

In the case of the latter, their take on Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir packed a real punch with Botti’s Spanish influenced tones adding extra pomp to the affair.

At times, one felt that Botti and his crew were trying too hard with the extended rock and blues jams — it almost felt like he was trying to justify himself for being the arena act that he now is.

It was when he dialled things down that Botti was in his element. His thoughtful take of Billie Holiday’s The Very Thought of You, featuring vocalist Sy Smith, was beautiful.

So was his treatment of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah; where the original revelled in mystery, Botti’s take was more refined and melodic.

It set the scene well for the arrival of Sting, who sauntered on to the stage over an hour into the set.

He began his mini solo set (Botti left the stage) with If I Ever Lose My Faith, demonstrating why the 64-year-old vocals remaining one of the best in the business.

By the time he breezed through English Man in New York and Message in A Bottle, one feared that Botti was totally overshadowed.

For all the talk of Sting’s ego, however, the rock icon was a gracious support act to Botti when the latter returned on stage.

One could sense the mutual appreciation between the two when they performed a joint set of Sting classics and covers.

When it came to the former, the laid back, jazzed-up vibe of Seven Dayswas a treat. However, their take on the Frank Sinatra classic In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning was a flop — the ache and heart break of the original was criminally replaced with Disneyesque schmaltzy arrangements.

That said, the set was varied enough to keep fans of both artists satisfied.

Special Events featuring Sting

Botti-Sting Banner

 

We just finished rehearsals today and I’m very excited to be heading out for a group of special performances featuring my good friend Sting.  We’re so looking forward to performing in Dubai, Georgia, Manila and Jakarta with 2 1/2 hours of music featuring our most popular songs!

February 25th – Dubai, UAE

February 27th and 28th – Tbilisi, Georgia

March 3rd – Manila, Philippines

March 5th and 6th – Jakarta, Indonesia

Go to my tour page for more details!

NBC’S Annual ‘Christmas In Rockefeller Center’ Celebrates The Music Of The Holidays Live On Wednesday, Dec 2nd

NBC will celebrate the lighting of the world’s most famous Christmas tree with “Christmas in Rockefeller Center®” on Wednesday, Dec. 2 (8-9 p.m. ET).

NBC’s “Today” anchors Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker and Natalie Morales will host the live broadcast from New York City’s Rockefeller Center, which will showcase spectacular holiday performances from Sting, Mary J. Blige, Andrea Bocelli, The Band Perry, Andy Grammer, Carly Rae Jepsen, Pentatonix, Band of Merrymakers, and music legend James Taylor, featuring world-renowned trumpeter Chris Botti. The evening will also include a special performance by the Rockettes.

The 83rd annual holiday extravaganza will feature a 78-foot tall Norway Spruce from Gardiner, N.Y. It is approximately 80 years old and weighs approximately 10 tons.

Once again, “Green Is Universal,” NBCUniversal’s sustainability initiative in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation, will kick off its annual tree-planting campaign during the “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” broadcast. This year, viewers can “GIF’t a Tree” to a national or state park or forest, by using #GIFtATree or visiting www.greenisuniversal.com to create and share an animated holiday tree GIF. Each action will contribute to the Arbor Day Foundation’s tree planting efforts, funded by a $25,000 donation from NBCUniversal.

Prior to the primetime telecast, an additional live hour of the special will be broadcast on select NBC stations (7-8 p.m. ET). Check local listings.