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Symphony review | Trumpeter Chris Botti thrills at first Pops

By Gary Budzak
For The Columbus Dispatch • Saturday June 20, 2015
Photo Credit: Leah Klafczynski / Dispatch

One of the Columbus Symphony’s favorite guests, trumpeter Chris Botti, turned in a typically top-notch performance Friday night in the Columbus Commons. However, the surprise of the evening was the weather — it didn’t rain.

Maybe it was the presence of WBNS-TV meteorologist Chris Bradley, telling us to keep our fingers crossed. It could have been CSO Board Chair Lisa Barton’s thanking the audience for braving the weather. Or perhaps it was what Botti called maestro Albert-George Schram’s good relationship with the man upstairs that kept the elements at bay. Then again, how could it rain on the opening Picnic with the Pops concert of the season?

Although the Commons was surrounded by clouds, it turned out to be a beautiful evening, completely dry with a slight breeze. The only negative of the night was too many sirens could be heard during the concert.

And what a concert it was. Unlike most pops shows, Botti and his band performed on both halves of the concert. In addition, the symphony played throughout, and could be heard well.

Botti, 52, is perhaps the most popular instrumentalist performing today. He’s equally at home playing a jazz solo, an operatic piece or a pop standard. While some of the audience may like Botti for his good looks, others favor his sound. When Botti plays his 1939 Martin Committee handcraft trumpet, it sounds more like a flugelhorn. He can get a strong but sad tone from the horn that redeems some of his smoother tunes.

Trumpeters aplenty have chops, but Botti also has the personality that allows a club or lawn audience to get into the show. He’s no shoe gazer — Botti breaks jazz down for first-timers. He said they play the melody, “the Taylor Swift part,” then on the solo “sometimes we go off to another planet.” Later, he went out into the audience, playing trumpet for people in front tables. Many cellphone photos were taken.

The other thing that made this a stellar show was the talent surrounding Botti. As a bandleader, he likes having people who play at his high level by his side and sharing the spotlight with them.

First was pianist Taylor Eigsti, who Botti said looked like Bradley Cooper and played like Bill Evans. Then there was expressive violinist Lucia Micarelli, who shifted from pathos to Kashmir without missing a beat. Botti also gave some love to bassist Richie Goods on Flamenco Sketches; Ben Butler (who may have been best on the opening En Aranjuez Con Tu Amor, although he got more cheers for the Iron Man riff); tenor George Komsky, who proved a ringer for Andrea Bocelli on Italia and Time to Say Goodbye. Last but not least, Botti made sure we heard a lot of trumpet-imitating singer Sy Smith and powerhouse drummer Lee Pearson. The latter’s long solo included balancing a stick on top of his head as he played.

Read the full concert review here at dispatch.com

Chatting With Chris Botti

HUFFINGTON POST
BY MIKE RAGOGNA

A Conversation with Chris Botti

Mike Ragogna: Chris, recently, you played the national anthem and it not only made national news but you also brought Reggie Wayne to tears. That must have been an amazing moment for you.

Chris Botti: I think I did one interview with the Indianapolis newspaper after I performed that, you’re the first person to ask me about it since then. But in my career, I’ve been very fortunate to have some really nice, freaky things happen, like Oprah Winfrey wants me on her show or something like that. Who would’ve ever thought in a million years that the cameras would be somehow fixed on this legendary football player on the exact moment that he starts tearing up? If I would’ve just played the anthem and that hadn’t happened then they would’ve just said, “Hey Chris, nice anthem.” It would’ve just been that. The drama of not only him being affected like that but also the TV cameras catching it is just the wildest thing. You practice millions and millions of hours playing trumpet and then this one thing comes along and everyone remembers, it’s so nice. A lot of credit is due to David Foster for playing those beautiful chords underneath me. I kind of had a backseat role in all of it, but it was pretty thrilling.

MR: For most artists, just performing the national anthem on Monday Night Football is pretty intense as it is.

CB: Yeah, and I’ve done a few of those. I did the AFC Championship and countless other regular football games for NFL, and I did World Series as well. Those are always really fun opportunities to play.

MR: Chris, you have a residency coming up at New York City’s Blue Note between December 15th and the first week of January, and not only are you playing but you’re having guests a slate of special guests join you. What’s it like to take over the Blue Note?

CB: We tour about two hundred fifty, three hundred days a year. The band is a well-oiled machine in that respect. We have a very serious outlook on gigging and performing, so for us to come to New York at that time of year, which is always special, and then to play that legendary jazz club and do forty-five shows in twenty-one nights–I think we’re doing a couple of days where we have three shows in one day–it’s a rush. And you don’t have to get on an airplane so you can walk to work. It’s fantastic. This is our tenth year, so people have come from all over the world to make December fun for them in New York. It’s taken a lot of time for us, traveling around the world, where we were in Istanbul last month or Republic Of Georgia and everyone’s like, “We’ll see you at the Blue Note in December!” You get a feeling that the word has actually spread and people will actually come to the show. It’s really a nice feeling.

Read the full interview here at huffingtonpost.com