[JPL] Chris Botti review by Nate Chinen

Blaise Lantana blaise.lantana at riomail.maricopa.edu
Thu Dec 13 21:28:58 EST 2007

Botti is at the Blue Note in NY through Christmas and if you're in the hood
I recommend that you treat yourself to the show. 

I went to see Chris Botti after I interviewed him here at KJZZ.  He was nice
enough to come to the station and spend an hour talking with me about his
life and music.  Not everyone is willing to make that effort and it makes it
easier for us to sell the music when people find out more about the artist.

Botti is amazing and I was surprised because I think of him as smooth jazz.
He has been moving in his own direction in the past few years and it's more
interesting to my little jazz snob ears.  His construction and pacing of the
show was great, using a vocalist, Sy Smith, for a couple of tunes plenty of
improvisation, some adventurous meters and harmonies and using his singing
tones on some familiar crowd pleasing melodies.  He talked with me about how
he learned how to present a show from Sting and Paul Simon and he learned
well.  His show is clear and defined with plenty of jamming and some pretty
crowd pleasers but it never has that smooth jazz schmaltz and shtick that
makes me walk out on Dave Koz.  Opening with Ave Maria featuring just him
and piano player Peter Martin, he and the band then break into a killer
groove improv led by Billy Kilson giving everyone room to solo and having
everyone in the hall moving to THAT beat.  Whoa! He had me there.  

Being the none too sweetheart interviewer that I am I asked Chris why he
plays below his talent, why he doesn't flash his chops, he certainly has
them.  He replied, only slightly annoyed that just because something sounds
simple does not mean it is not difficult and inspired.

His tone is so impeccably beautiful and it never falters, he is a dedicated
Botti is working with guitarist Mark Whitfield a terrific foil who adds
humor, fun and spark to Botti's cool sound and he gives him plenty of room
to shine; Billy Killson on drums played with Dave Holland and lays down a
mighty groove as well being able to be invisible and propelling on a soft
ballad, he was pure excitement to watch.  Maybe it was because Botti gave
his band equal time to develop their ideas that it felt like a true jazz
concert where one artist inspires another to a spontaneous composition; it
wasn't just a trumpet player with his backup band.  Botti's encore was
Sinatra's "One for My Baby" playing a duet with the pianist, it was haunting
and full of surprising ideas. Good jazz from the old school of Chet Baker
and Miles in the 50s but with a contemporary flavor.  

The concert suited my taste more than the albums I thought, but he sure is
doing a job of selling his CDs and he claims that is because he tours
CONSTANTLY.  He says he's been on the road for 7 years straight and doesn't
have plans to stop.  One point that he made is that people want different
things from a concert than from a CD and he presents his music with that
consideration.  I'm using some things off of his "December" release for the
holidays and a couple of cuts of the new one "Italia". 

I'll have the interview up on our website next week and I'll let you know
when you can access it.

Blaise Lantana
Music Director
KJZZ Phoenix


Anybody catch the above NY Times review, or the actual show?  I found the
review very strange, as if Nate Chinen possibly enjoyed himself but couldn't
stand the fact that he did because he doesn't respect Chris Botti. I've
never seen Botti live, but I've seen live performances on television that,
while not being very adventurous, were surely much more musical to my ears
than someone like Kenny G. Interested in your thoughts...


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