What would you like to see most in a performer? An artist who exudes charm and sex appeal; a multi Grammy award winning jazz performer who has established himself as a highly successful crossover pop artist; a classical musician who trained at one of the most prestigious music schools in the world; a renaissance man who is equally at home on the concert stage, in films, as a radio host and recording artist…..or all of the above. You can see all of these performers embodied in one artist at the VanWezel Performing Arts Hall on Wednesday, April 24.
Chris Botti is not just a Grammy Award winning jazz trumpet virtuoso, he is also a classically trained musician who has performed at Carnagie Hall, composed and scored music for film, performed in both films and television, as well as hosted a radio show. Along with another Van Wezel headliner Joshua Bell, Botti trained at the acclaimed Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University (whose master of music program was rated by the National Association of Schools of Music as tied for No.1 with the Julliard and Eastman Schools of Music). His professional career began while in high school when he first appeared at Carnagie Hall as a member of the McDonald’s All American High School Jazz Band. At Indiana University Botti studied under jazz educator David Baker and trumpet professor Bill Adam and was awarded two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts for summer study with Trumpet great Woody Shaw and saxophonist George Coleman. These associations established his great love for Jazz and led to him leave Indiana University to tour with Frank Sinatra and Buddy Rich. After which he moved to New York City to hone his craft as a studio musician.
In 1990 Botti began a decade long touring and recording relationship with Paul Simon which broadened his exposure to other singers. During that period he performed and recorded with the top artists of that era among whom were Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell, Natalie Merchant and Roger Daltry. In 1991 Botti performed with Paul Simon in New York Central Park as part of the Rhythm of the Saints tour. The performance was commercially released as the Concert in the Park CD his first Grammy Award Winning association. He followed this breakthrough by producing the Brecker Brothers Out of the Loop which won a 1995 Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Performance. These gigs and those relationships were, he says, “powerful learning experiences….watching artists like Sting, Paul and Joni” explains Botti, “how they get in and out of songs, how they introduce people, whether they would do this or that sort of thing, what they would say about one of their players. All that was a huge asset for me, I wouldn’t be the performer I am today without that background”.
In 1999 Botti was invited to tour with Sting as a featured soloist in the Brand New Day tour. This two-year run culminated in All This Time a CD/DVD taping and webcast performance from Sting’s estate in Tuscany on September 11, 2001, Botti attributes his relationship with Sting as having changed the course of his career. His recording began in earnest when he was introduced to Columbia Records by Bobby Colomby, drummer and founding member of Blood, Sweat and Tears who went on to become his producer and manager. His first Columbia release was Night Sessions in 2001 followed by A Thousand Kisses Deep which accented his crossover appeal as both a jazz and pop musician. Two highlights of his recording career was his partnership with Andrea Bocelli producing Italia which traced his Italian roots and was nominated for a Grammy as Best Pop Instrumental Album and his second CD/DVD PBS project Chris Botti in Boston. Performing with the Boston Pops Orchestra Botti shared the stage with YoYo Ma, Steven Tyler, Josh Groban, Katharine McPhee, John Mayer and Sting. Since then he has released 12 solo albums for Columbia many of which became Grammy Award winners. He sold over three million albums and his latest “Impressions” just won the award as “Best Pop Instrumental Album” at the 55th annual Grammy Awards program.
Having established himself as a major artist in his own right, performing worldwide, Botti has found a form of creative expression that begins in jazz and expands beyond the limits of any single genre. With Impressions and the albums that preceded it Chris Botti has thoroughly established himself as one of the most important innovative figures of the contemporary music world. But most of all the reason for Botti’s success is that he does what so many jazz players don’t…….he entertains…..with gusto!