Chris Botti brings a taste of ‘Italia’ to Thornton Winery

Published on March 24th, 2021

By Jim Dail

There are ways for a performer to know that he or she has made it. Album sales, hit singles, airplay are some good signs.

If the fact that trumpeter Chris Botti not only has all of those things but is in constant demand is any indication, it’s safe to say he’s made it.

“The thing about working in this business is there’s no guarantee of work,” said Botti who will perform Sunday at Thornton Winery as part of the 2008 Champagne Jazz Concert Series. “It takes luck and opportunity combined with determination and passion.”

Throughout the years, he has found success as a sideman, playing with such celebrities as Paul Simon and Sting, and worked as a session musician on the albums of many others, including Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin.

On his own, Botti has earned both critical acclaim and mainstream appreciation for a succession of best-selling albums including “When I Fall In Love, “To Love Again: The Duets” and “Chris Botti Live with Orchestra & Special Guests.”

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.

“When I was 12 years old, I heard Miles Davis playing ‘My Funny Valentine,’ and at that moment, I knew that I wanted to be a jazz musician,” he said. “I admire the fact that Miles knew he couldn’t be a great be-bopper, but that didn’t matter because he focused on making great records around this incredible tone of his. I know the same thing, that I am not a be-bopper, and don’t want to play fast over a lot of changes, even though I probably can.”

He attended Indiana University’s music program, where he was taught by renowned jazz instructor David Baker. After graduation, Botti moved to New York City, where he played with saxophone player George Coleman and master trumpeter Woody Shaw and launched a successful career as a session musician

From the mid-90s to early 2000s, he continued working as a sideman but also releasing his albums, each one seeming to draw more critical acclaim and success than the previous one.

His last album, “Italia” is a tribute to his culture and his time living in Italy.

“I made the “Italia” album because I feel that everyone can relate to Italy in some way through its romance and culture,” he said. “I am proud to be an Italian-American, and I lived in Italy for two years of my childhood, but my goal was to put together an album inspired by Italy in all its beauty and romance. I decided that I wanted to do an album based on the romance of Italy.”

Having worked with many of pop music’s most famous performers, Botti turned again to a famous name.

“The first step I took was to call the great songwriter/producer, David Foster, to see if he wanted to write the song “Italia” with me,” he said. “It was David’s idea to ask Andrea Bocelli to perform a vocal for the song. Once the song “Italia” was finished with Andrea Bocelli and David Foster, all of the other songs flowed naturally in a combination of classical pieces and traditional jazz tunes.”

While Botti fits in the modern definition of jazz, one thing that separates him from the genre is a heavy pop influence.

“My music is more reined-in, because it’s in a pop format,” he said. “But this atmospheric quality is what I really loved about jazz, and on my earlier CD’s I’ve tried to marry that feel to the textures and melodies you might hear on a record by Peter Gabriel or Bryan Ferry.”

That style has been critical to his success, not just here but abroad as well.

“I am lucky enough to be able to stick with my traditional jazz roots while still having the opportunity to work with great pop and rock musicians,” he said. “Working with great talents like Sting and Andrea Bocelli has allowed me to develop an ability to play with great singers, as well as having given my trumpet playing a very lush and languid vocal style. It has allowed my music to reach a worldwide popular audience.”


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