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Trumpeter Chris Botti returns to Washington

By Nancy Dunham
Special to The Examiner
August 4, 2010

Let’s face it — Washington just can’t get enough of Chris Botti.

The much-acclaimed trumpeter, who has received accolades from everyone from Frank Sinatra to Sting, often plays to packed houses in the District. Now he’s close to selling out another local show.

“It’s kind of never-ending touring,” Botti said. “We toured 11 months last year. I am almost always on a tour bus.”

And to hear Botti tell it, he couldn’t be happier with that schedule. Botti was born in Portland, Ore., where his mother, a classically trained pianist and part-time piano teacher, exposed him to music at an early age. At age 11, he decided to pursue a career that would involve creating music reminiscent of the acclaimed Miles Davis.

“The music that really inspired me … was more like Miles Davis playing ballads with the second quintet,” Botti said. “You know, that spacey thing, when they broke down all the chords in the song? That band playing ‘Stella by Starlight’ is something very different from, say, Bud Powell playing the same tune.”

Fast-forward to today, when Botti himself is acclaimed as a leading jazz musician — and more. Consider this review from the Worcester, Mass., Telegram and Gazette:

“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!” wrote critic Peter Landsdowne. “Botti sent his detractors packing last night … [with] a solid two-hour-long concert that showed that he knows how to handle the horn.”

So just how does the Grammy Award-winning Botti compose — and, of course, play — such compelling music? Basically, it’s a combination of his early training and the Miles Davis sound to which he gravitated. His unrelenting goal to be the best — perhaps best evidenced by the journal he kept of his daily practice for almost three straight years (he fell short by a few days) — has also helped lead him to his critically and commercially successful sound.

“I’m lucky that my fans are so diverse,” Botti said. “[On a recent night] there was a couple celebrating their 61st anniversary. There were also a ton of young musicians there. It is really cool to see that and see [trumpet music] accepted on such a big level.”