Chris Botti's New Year On The Road:
Grammy Nominated Musician Sounds The Horn in Morristown
A SoundPress.net Archive Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

Chris Botti is a composer and musician who has performed and recorded with artists ranging from Frank Sinatra to Aerosmith's Steven Tyler to Sting. In fact, it was the opportunity to open for the former Police frontman six years ago that expanded the talented trumpeter's audience. In late 2009, the Chris Botti In Boston (CD & DVD) was nominated for four Grammy Awards including Best Pop Instrumental Album.

Chris Botti Live in New Jersey
Chris Botti onstage at the Mayo Center in Morristown, New Jersey in 2010.

When Chris Botti and his band made a tour stop on January 8, 2010 at the Mayo Center For The Performing Arts in Morristown, New Jersey, it was the start of his seventh straight year on the road in a seemingly endless jaunt around the world. Botti commented from the stage that he has been performing 300 dates annually for each of the past six years with no sign of slowing down.

In addition to concerts, the Mayo Center supports arts within the community including an award for Music Student of the Month. For December 2009, six trumpet playing teens were recognized and had the opportunity to meet Chris before the show and they were additionally introduced onstage before the sold-out audience. Next, piped in music could be heard as the lights dimmed with Chris Botti and his band taking the spotlight.

On this cold January night the group was warmly received by the attentive patrons. Chris looked dapper in a shiny dark hued suit and slightly teased hair. Botti was personable and professional. He shared stories and smoothly led the band through a genre blending and generation bridging performance.

They opened with the delicate yet thrilling "Ave Maria" with Chris playing very long notes that elicited cheers and chuckles from the crowd. The second song had a jazzy rock groove that transitioned into a slower section for Botti to play lengthy notes with plenty of nuances. The pace picked up with bold blasts from the trumpet melding into an almost frenzied foray. The pensive approach reappeared before concluding with a faster jazz progression. This was a prime example of Chris' diverse and dynamic approach to music.

Although Botti was the leader he was very appreciative of his bandmates and on several occasions shared accolades for each. Chris mentioned that in 2009 Billy Childs (piano) was honored with the prestigious Guggenheim Award for Music Composition.

Chris is a contemporary artist who pays homage to the past by playing a 1939 Martin Committee Hand-crafted trumpet. Botti was respectful and reverent of music history commenting that Miles Davis and his band changed the face of music. Chris mentioned that Davis' A Kind of Blue was recently voted a national treasure by Congress.

Chris Botti Live in New Jersey
Mark Whitfield and the whole Chris Botti Band were a well-oiled machine.

Botti further explained Miles' formula of restraint with lack of preparation. A song starts with a five chord motif and the musicians build on that simple form. The band demonstrated this with a vibrant version of "Flamenco Sketches". The piece progressed through a number of tempos and textures that included fine solos from Robert Hurst (bass) and Mark Whitfield (guitar). The motif moved into some heavy jazz grooves as the tempo quickened and the music became more dense and dynamic. Botti watched the band jam from the side of the stage before returning to add beguiling blasts to the mix. Then, he toned the tune down to its close.

Another highlight of the first set featured singer Sy Smith. Sy - the cousin of Whitfield - was dressed in a striking red gown. She added visually and vocally to the lavish "The Look of Love". Smith would return in the second set to sing "Good Morning Heartache" - a blues based jazz ballad with a scat approach mimicked note for note by Botti's trumpeting.

Anne Akiko Meyers was a special guest for the evening and her vibrant violin blended well with the varied atmospheric keyboard parts. Chris and Anne's exchanges were enchanting as the other players added subtle instrumentation to the featured number.

The second set was as engaging as the first with the expansive "Indian Summer". The song had a dramatic drum solo from Billy Kilson that featured lots of pace and pulsing. The improvisation went off into Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" and "We Want The Funk" by the P-Funk All-Stars. Kilson looked liked an elastic man as he continually and deliberately lifted his arms high in the air before bringing them down in a brutal attack on his kit. He stopped mid jam to give someone in the front row a drum stick before returning for some gentle cymbal play to wind the number down.

"The Very Thought Of You" was clean and concise with a solo from Botti in which his fingers were fluttering over the valves to craft varied tones. Botti ended the night with some words about the relative meaning of success by inviting several young musicians to join him at the front of the stage for the encore. He lauded the youngster's commitment to music by noting there's more to life than the Internet and Gameboys and he encouraged them all to continue in the musical path and passion that they shared.

He went on to tell of working with Frank Sinatra on his comeback tour in the 1980's and how he sacrificed his college education well into his fourth year for a $200 payoff. But hearing "nice solo, kid" from the great one was worth it. In honor of Old Blue Eyes, Botti played a saloon song that the crowd finger snapped along to. Botti and the band remained after the concert to meet fans before boarding the tour bus to Portland, Maine.

"Good night, everybody, see you real soon," Botti said to conclude the two hour performance on the frozen Morristown Green. "Have an amazing 2010."

By the looks of it Mr. Botti's year is already off to an amazing start.

Chris Botti's Band:
Anne Akiko Meyers - GuestViolinist
Billy Childs - Pianist
Billy Kilson - Drummer
Geoffrey Keezer - Keyboards
Mark Whitfield - Guitarist
Robert Hurst - Bassist
Sy Smith - Vocalist

Chris Botti Live in New Jersey
Chris Botti in Boston has been nominated for four Grammy Awards.

Related Links: For more information on CHRIS BOTTI and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- ChrisBotti.com | Buy Chris Botti in Boston | Search "Chris Botti" | MayoArts.org

(Originally Published on January 09, 2010)

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