Botti brings musical statement to Thornton

Published on August 7th, 2018

By Jim Dail

Trumpeter Chris Botti is absolutely delighted to be visiting Thornton Winery again.

“I love it,” he said. “What a great a part of the world to be touring!”

Botti will bring his show, complete with violinist Sandy Cameron, vocalists Sy Smith, Veronica Swift and Jonathan Johnson and pianist Eldar Djangirov, among others, to Temecula on Saturday as part of the 2018 Thornton Winery Champagne Jazz Concert Series.

He continues to be a massive attraction all over the world, despite not churning out album after album each year.

“It’s slowly over time been the thing that is the biggest hurdle and the thing I am the most proud of,” he said. “You tell people you are going to see a trumpet player and I also don’t have a myriad of hit songs, but people still come out. We have a collection of great musicians and great musicianship. Anyone who comes to the show I think can feel that and we feel the audience remains with us throughout the whole process.”

Growing up in Portland, Ore., Botti began playing music when he was 10. By the time he was 12, he had his instrument of choice. He attended Indiana University’s music program, where he was taught by renowned jazz instructor David Baker. From the mid-90s to early 2000s, he worked as a sideman but also releasing his albums, each one seeming to draw more critical acclaim and success than the previous one.

But perhaps his biggest success are his shows, which sell out anywhere in the world he happens to be playing.

“It’s a slower ascent, vis-a-vis some jazz show,” he said. “It’s a longer steadier thrust with a variety to it.”

Talk to Botti and one thing is clear: he is proud of who he has joining him on stage, and they are an integral part of the show.

“We have Sandy Cameron on violin,” he said. “We have a new piano player who is unreal. Eldar was born in Russia and was a major player when he was 12. The Grammy Awards gave him his 6 minutes of piano and he is bad ass now. And we have Sy, Veronica Swift and Jonathan Johnson singing.”

And he loves featuring others during his show.

“We played the Montreal jazz festival and they said it was the ultimate variety show,” he said. “Everyone tries to find their way into an audience, and for me I have tried to make the musicianship special and it’s been great.”

That’s one of the keys to success for Botti.

“The record business has fallen off the cliff, and at the end of the day you can only isolate yourself and certain people and to get people who want to leave their house and come see you is really awesome,” he said. “I was lucky because I had the full force of Sony when I was coming up and they paid a lot of bills and threw a lot of hammers for me, but I don’t know how a young artist breaks out now.”

That doesn’t mean there will not be anything new in the future.

“We have a new PBS special, so that’s our publicity push and will carry us some more,” he said. “We did our last PBS special in 2009. It was a thing that sort of catapulted this notion of multiple singers and big performances. The success of that show allowed me to raise my stature to make more money and to hire more musicians and over that time when we are at the Blue Note for 28 straight nights, people keep saying ‘Chris, you’ve got to film your show.’”

And the idea resonated with him.

“When we started to piece it together, quite frankly, it was all those guys I know as friends and socially and we went in and picked seven new star singers that I know personally and who fit this landscape of music,” he said.  “We went to The Wiltern and we shot our show, which is the same one we are bringing to Thornton. We let it rip and I think it came out great and am super proud of it.”

While he has thought of another record down the road, he’s much more focused on the stage and his ability to play, which might surprise some of his many fans who figure there is no need for more practice.

“At the end of the day, it is like people go to see Yo-Yo Ma and they want to hear him play the cello,” he said. “They are down with the sound, and I think that’s what I have kept my eye on and seen my audience grow by word of mouth. I don’t go on Facebook though people say I could expand my audience that way.  I’d rather practice and work on my craft and when we come out for the show it’s their own Facebook that they put me on and say ‘You have to check him out!’”

His dedication is intense.

“I am trying to get better as a player so I practice 4-5 hours a day,” he said. “You get older and it’s harder to get the content and the new stuff. I just did a duet with Doc Severinsen and he sounds and looks amazing. It is so inspirational. He’s been so nice to me and to see that you can still play is pretty incredible. The trumpet is a harsh mistress and you cannot skip practices.”

That allows him to stretch himself – as well as others – to their musical limits.

“To keep trying to push the envelope, to showcase virtuoso players is the goal,” he said. “My job is to bring to an audience absolute prowess on the instrument and, yes, people want to be moved to tears but they want to hear the best music they can.”

That’s not to say that his shows do not have people moving and groovin’.

“At the core of it they get up and dance do all that,” he said. “The stuff that makes them come back is ‘Emmanuel’ and ‘Hallelujah,’ and I see people holding hands and just locked in with me. It’s what works for me. I want to play my instrument and let the show unfold.”

IF YOU GO

When:  7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 11

Where: Thornton Winery, Temecula

Admission: General admission $105, Gourmet supper: Sold out

Information: Call 951-699-3021 or visit Website, www.thorntonwine.com

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