Chris Botti in Concert at Mission Hill

by CHRIS STANFORD – Daily Courier

Chris Botti has worked with an enviable list of artists from different genres throughout his career. Botti performs at Mission Hill Family Estate Winery on Sunday.

Some music snobs might say jazz fusion is dead, or at least dormant – but trumpeter Chris Botti is just about single-handedly putting that idea to rest.

Still, the soft-spoken, handsome musician – he made People Magazine’s list of the 50 most beautiful people in 2004 – ¬†doesn’t see himself as on a mission, per se.

“I don’t really view my albums, or my tours and my concerts as a statement for jazz as much as it is the kind of music I like and would want to play for people,”said the 49-year-old Botti.

“I kind of leave all the, ‘Where’s the actual state of jazz?,’ or ‘What is jazz?,’ or ‘Are we playing jazz?’ I leave that to other people to figure out. I try to not get to worried about it.”

But Botti, if not a man on a mission, is at least a very busy guy.

“I do about 300 dates a year,” he said, from Washington, D.C., where he had played a prestigious gala show at the Kennedy Center the night before, sharing the stage with B.C. producer and writer David Foster.

His list of credentials in the music business is long and impressive. But perhaps what is most striking about Botti, and sets him apart from most other jazz players, is his ability to blend with many different musicians, and especially vocalists, in different settings.

On his most recent album, Impressions, for example, he plays with a truly boggling array of fellow musicians, exploring mostly melodic ballads.

There’s ex-Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler doing the standard What a Wonderful World, while he teamed with country musician Vince Gill on the Randy Newman- penned song, Losing You. A collaboration with Herbie Hancock following a state dinner at the White House resulted in the pair’s composition Tango Suite. And with Foster, Botti took lyrics by Tiziano Ferro and came up with the music, which resulted in the song Per Te, with Andrea Boccelli handling the vocals.
Born in Portland, Ore., Botti grew up in Corvallis, encouraged to pursue music by his mother, a concert pianist.

“I knew I wanted to be a trumpet player and I knew I wanted to play jazz,” said Botti, who first picked up the instrument at the age of nine. He also spent two years growing up in Italy, where his father had relocated the family temporarily. That experience came to influence him later on.
But it was at the age of 12 that he hit, what was for him, a watershed moment, when he heard Miles Davis’ exceptional version of the old standard My Funny Valentine.

“For me, it was the sound of his instrument – the tone,” said Botti.

“If you look at Louis Armstrong, or Dizzy (Gillespie), or Booker Little, they played with a kind of regal, joyous almost, attitude towards the trumpet.

“And Miles made it kind of more brooding, haunting, melancholy, for lack of a better word, and it resonated with me.”

Botti followed his muse and learned his craft, first at college in Oregon, then at Indiana University, and further honed his skills in big bands led by drummer and notorious taskmaster Buddy Rich. He even playing behind Frank Sinatra at one point. He led the life of an itinerant jazz musician.

As Botti put it, “I went many years of my adult life gigging and playing small clubs, or doing a little studio work.”

In 1990, he changed gears, beginning a decade-long touring and recording stint with Paul Simon, and Botti has been forging his way though music for three decades now, bringing his cool sound to a wider audience.

Along the way, he’s collaborated with not only Simon and Sting, but also worked with everyone from Josh Groban, Joni Mitchell, Vince Gill, Aerosmith vocalist Steven Tyler, and Michael Buble, to legends like Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole and Bette Midler.

Since the release of 1984’s critically acclaimed When I Fall in Love, Botti has consistently been the top-selling American jazz instrumental artist. He has four No. 1 albums, as well as multiple gold and platinum CDs, and a Grammy Award on his mantlepiece.

The latter, in the category for best instrumental arrangement accompanying vocalist, came from Botti and Sting’s effort on the song What Are You doing the Rest of Your Life.

His 2006 CD Live, With Orchestra and Special Guests, along with 2007’s Italia, and the live 2009’s Chris Botti in Boston, were all immensely popular, selling more each than most jazz artists do in a whole career.

But whether others call him a jazz artist, a fusion player, or a pop musician, as far as Botti is concerned, it’s all just music to him.

“I think that if you equate it to rock and roll music, if John Mayer (another Botti collaborator) releases a record, then he’s not saying to the critics, “How does this fit with the music of Bob Dylan?'” said Botti. “He doesn’t care about that.

“All he really wants to do is reach an audience, and connect with that audience. That’s his
job – and that’s my job. To make records that I like first, and
then hopefully an audience will like.”

QUICKFACTS
Who: Chris Botti in concert, part of the Mission Hill 2012 Summer Concert Series
Where: Mission Hill Family Estate Winery, 1730 Mission Hill Rd., West Kelowna
When: Sunday, June 24 at 8 p.m., doors open at 6 p.m.
Tickets: $89.50 concert only, Loggia Wine Lounge and concert $199.50, not including taxes and service charges. Tickets also available for Terrace Dinner and concert, and pre-concert reception and concert. All available online selectyourtickets.com.
More info: missionhillwinery.com, or call 250-768-5125
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