Sydney, Australia – Concert review , The Sydney Morning Herald
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.