Have Trumpet Will Travel:
Chris Botti Live at the BergenPAC
A SoundPress.net Archive Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

Chris Botti is a trumpeter, collaborator and composer. Chris has released eight solo records since his debut in 1995. Botti has performed and recorded with a wide range of artists such as Andrea Bocelli, Marc Cohn, Michael Buble, Paul Simon, Sting and Tony Levin. Chris is a native of Oregon. His mother is a classically trained pianist and part time teacher who first taught Chris harmony and the piano. Later, Botti would pick up the trumpet and had the privilege to study under a number of instructors including master Woody Shaw. Interestedly, Chris composes most of his songs on the piano first before translating them to the trumpet.

Chris Botti in Concert!

Italia was released in the fall of 2007 is a veneration to the romance of Italy, in particular the concepts and phrasings of Italian music. The twelve-track CD blends classical, jazz, orchestral and pop. The music is described as "melancholy, memorable and moving". The album includes 'Ave Maria', a piece that Chris often opens his concerts with. The album also features incredible guest vocalists Andrea Bocelli, Paula Cole and Dean Martin (via technology). Chris is on tour from the summer of 2007 through June of 2008 in support of the new record with multiple nights at many venues including an extended showcase at the legendary Blue Note in New York City from December 10-25, 2007.

The audience at the BergenPAC literally roared when Chris Botti and his incredible four-piece band took the stage. Peter Martin alternated between grand piano and Korg keyboards. James Genus played stand-up and electric bass. Billy Kilson was dynamic on drums and Mark Whitfield armed with his fire engine red guitar was great. Chris and company lived up to the high expectations, playing a vibrant, versatile set of smooth jazz that traversed into classical, funk, rock and traditional jazz.

Botti is a charismatic player and performer, creating remarkable, rich, robust tones from his trumpet. His band is equally talented and in the tradition of jazz each artist had ample opportunity to solo and shine. On a number of occasions, Chris with his instrument at his side looked like he was really digging what the other musicians were crafting before stepping up and contributing his own colorful accents.

Botti is a world class player and his concerts are polished. Chris and the band traveled various musical terrains in the course of the evening, exploring different genres and grooves. Compositions progressed from slow and sultry to energetic and exciting. Their interpretations of the romantic numbers such as Victor Young's 'When I Fall in Love' and Leonard Cohen's 'A Thousand Kisses Deep' were skillful and stimulating.

Chris is also a storyteller who chats to the crowd in between songs. Botti joked about growing up in Oregon - "the jazz capital of the world" - as Whitfield played a quick Jimi Hendrix riff in acknowledgment of the northwest. Next Chris started reflecting about moving to NYC and talked of his admiration for Miles Davis. The band then performed a radiant rendition of 'Flamenco Sketches' and they captured all the slow intimacy of the song with a subtle rhythm and Botti's tantalizing trumpet. The tempo increased and the stand up bass took center stage, then the guitar, and lastly the drums for a captivating musical conversation.

The musical dialogues throughout the set were dynamic with diverse speeds, styles, textures and tones. Technical skills abounded, yet the music was enchanting and filled with emotion. Botti is able to entice so much from his trumpet. Every note is pure from high to low, yet he can elicit strange sounds and elongated notes too. The majority of the set was instrumentals but guest singer Sy Smith added spark and soul to the music with her expansive range and was most impressive on the band's version of 'Good Morning Heartache'.

Botti shared that at the time he was recorded his first record, Jeff Buckley was in the same studio complex and in the course of events, Jeff exposed Chris to the song 'Hallelujah'. The band's interpretation was delicate and delightful. The slight piano tones sounded like rain as they melded with Botti's haunting horn.

Chris also performed a number of songs from Italia including 'Caruso' which was handled with respect and range. Towards the end of the set, Botti left the stage to play right in front of the crowd as the band played a high energy exploratory jam. Returning to the stage, Chris thanked the crowd stating, "you've been great and we will see you soon."

In response to ample applause, Botti closed the set with a stylistic solo and told the story of his not so spectacular encounter with the legendary Frank Sinatra. Chris was very nervous and was convinced that his audition for Sinatra was weak, but Frank was nice enough to give a compliment, which gave the young Botti the courage to approach Mr. Sinatra, which apparently was not the appropriate move. Things have gone well for Chris since that misstep and today Botti is traveling the world as a popular, well respected trumpeter.

Opening for Chris Botti, was the talented Chelsea Palermo from New Jersey. Chelsea sites Ella Fitzgerald as her idol and Palermo has a great appreciation for classic, jazz standards. Chelsea was wearing an elegant black dress and aptly handled the diverse range of songs she performed, including the bluesy 'Pack My Suitcase'. Palermo engaged the audience during her rendition, by thrusting her mike out to the audience to respond "everyday", which they did. Palermo has a versatile vocal range and brought empathy and energy to each classic. She was supported by a capable band that consisted of a bass player, pianist and saxophonist who also handled percussion. Chelsea was warmly received by the crowd at the BergenPAC and it is likely that people will be seeing and hearing more from this potential star in the future.

Related Links: For more information on CHRIS BOTTI and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- chrisbotti.com | bergenpac.org | chelseapalermo.com

(Originally Published on October 20, 2007)

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