On a tour that has spanned 10 years and many countries, Chris Botti has performed with and for luminaries who are too numerous to count. On Nov. 16th, thousands of his closest friends packed the Durham Performing Arts Center on a misty Sunday night to be thrilled by his virtuosity; and all of them left completely wowed by the experience.
With very little fanfare beyond a dimming of the lights, Botti and his band wandered onto the stage at the beginning of this concert, co-sponsored by DPAC and The Carolina Theatre of Durham. From the moment that Botti and his band launched right into a jazz standard: Miles Davis’ “Sketches of Spain,” they had the audience enthralled.
The clarity and romantic overtones of his soulful trumpet went from that standard to classical music, from the sultriness of “When I Fall in Love” to the transcendent passages of another Davis standard (“Flamenco Sketches” from “Kind of Blue”), then delves into the gorgeous Leonard Cohen masterpiece “Hallelujah.
” Along the way, he dips into jazz standards and the love theme from Cinema Paradiso. His tremolos and glissandos are not paralleled by any jazz trumpeter playing today. At one point in the concert, he held a note for almost 30 seconds.
Throughout the concert, Chris Botti chatted with the audience, connecting with them in a way few jazz musicians do. At one point, he and guest songstress the stunning Sy Smith left the stage to do “The Very Thought of You” in the audience, roaming the wide aisle behind the orchestra seats and meandering up the center aisle, creating an intimate club setting by bringing himself to the audience, and in turn, by inviting them into his world.
“Take pictures, video, whatever you want,” he told the packed house. “Put them up on your Facebook page, load the videos on YouTube. We’re happy you’re here, and any artist that tells you they don’t want pictures or videos taken doesn’t deserve your business.” Guaranteed there are plenty of clips all over the Net today since every other person took advantage of his invitation.
A masterful musician who has played with Sting, Andrea Boccelli, and Paul Simon, Chris Botti appreciates excellent instrumentalists, a fact proven by the artists he invites to appear with him on stage. The previously mentioned Sy Smith is featured on his “Boston” DVD. She sings Burt Bacharach’s “Look of Love” with such incredible range that she had a standing ovation before halfway through the song; and when she and Botti’s trumpet share a scatting session, she is able to reach the same soaring heights at Botti’s screaming instrument. If you close your eyes, it would be difficult to tell which was the human instrument and which the shining brass.
Sy Smith is not the only vocalist to share Botti’s stage. George Komsky’s tenor takes on the Andrea Boccelli role for Botti’s “Italia.” Botti wrote the song with the great David Foster, the music producer who has worked with stars from Michael Buble to Seal to Rod Stewart, Josh Groban, and many others. Komsky’s lovely and full-throated tenor easily handled the beautiful melody and continued into “Time to Say Goodbye” (which he sang in Italian).
The “backup” musicians, who include some of the best in the world, each get a moment to shine on stage, either sharing a piece with Chris Botti or tearing up on a solo.
Billy Kilson. Botti’s badass drummer, throws his whole body into a solo after a charming story Botti tells about signing the drummer on to the 10-year tour. Richie Goods, a jazz bassist extraordinaire switches from the big bass to guitar and back again with incredible ease.
Australian guitarist Ben (Benedict) Butler accompanies Botti’s gorgeous trumpet on “Hallelujah”; and Andy Ezrin, a 30-year-old pianist from New York City, holds his own quite easily with the other musicians, as does the other keyboardist Geoffrey Keezer. But the musician who truly blew the roof off DPAC and had the crowd screaming and rising to their feet was violinist Caroline Campbell.
Classically trained, Campbell is as beautiful and blonde as the 52-year-old Botti. They could be siblings. And her timing is impeccable, blending her red-hot violin with Botti’s white-hot trumpet riffs. However, no matter how much she shines when playing alongside the star of the show, she creates a whole new galaxy when she is left onstage alone to tear into her incredibly passionate version of Corigliano’s “Red Violin.” To say she ripped up the violin with her wild virtuosity is an understatement. The music excavates your soul and the talent it takes to play such a difficult piece is … quite simply: phenomenal. She was the star of the night, stealing the show from Botti, and one has to give him credit since he allowed her to have the stage to herself.
Some purists might say that Chris Botti, his band, and his performance are not pure jazz at its finest. But I say, find some better performers than the people who took DPAC‘s stage Sunday night, and this reviewer will concede that one might hear better jazz. But I strongly doubt it. Let’s hope Botti keeps touring for a very long time.
CHRIS BOTTI (Durham Performing Arts Center and The Carolina Theatre, Nov. 16 in Durham).
SHOW: http://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/chris-botti and https://www.facebook.com/events/1417059275231186/.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lN3sunqCOic.
DPAC NEWS RELEASE: http://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/trumpet-virtuoso-chris-botti-return-to-dpac-on-november-16.
Durham Performing Arts Center: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center.
The Carolina Theatre: http://www.carolinatheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/CarolinaTheatreDurham, and https://twitter.com/CarolinaDurham.
Chris Botti (52-year-old Portland, OR-born trumpeter and composer): http://www.chrisbotti.com/us/home (official website), https://www.facebook.com/chrisbotti (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/chrisbottii (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Botti (Wikipedia).
Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater reviews. She is also Dean of General Education and Developmental Studies at Piedmont Community College in Roxboro, where she oversees the theater program at the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex, and a member of the Person County Arts Council. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/. To read more of her writings, click http://dawnrenolangley.com/.