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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