Chris Botti keeps working at getting even better

Published on April 6th, 2021

By Jim Dail

Master trumpeter Chris Botti walks down the streets of New York after attending music school for the last few hours. That’s the last thing one would think about the musician who clearly is on top of his game. After all, his most recent album, “Impressions” won him a Grammy.

“In a weird way I have been going back to school,” said Botti in a telephone interview. “I’ve been aggressively practicing more than I used to do, about five to seven hours a day. It’s about putting my horn in my face and try to make something new.”

New is not necessarily a requirement, but it sure is something Botti has made a living on. That is, he has always done a range of music for his fans.

One might hear something like “Emmanuel,” “En Aranjuez Con Tu Amor,” “My Funny Valentine,” “Flamenco Sketches” and “Nessun doma.” It might be a classical song, maybe a jazz song, maybe an R&B song, a jazz song or even a Disney song.

Even his guest list will feature a range of artists whose talent crossed multiple genres, such as Caroline Campbell and Sy Smith. But Botti just continues to fine tune everything he does.

“I feel I don’t have to work, and so I guess on a real fundamental level I just want to use that opportunity and the time and the freedom it gives you,” he said. “It’s not about just doing maintenance. It’s more a primal and primitive thing paying attention to the smallest increments. It’s a physical instrument so you have to worry about that but I want something better to say from the stage.”

And there might be another album in the future but definitely not until 2017.

“We are booked all the way through 2016 and into 2017,” he said. “Then I might sit down and think about an album.”

Of course, in the early days, he was pretty prolific. His debut, “First Wish,” was in 1995, followed by “Midnight Without You” in 1997 and “Slowing Down the World” in 1999. Even then he was collaborating with vocalist, a trademark of his live shows.

As for the show, it is process where some things work and some don’t. However, most of the people who watch him perform might not believe that there is that much work involved, considering how fluently the show runs.

“For every one song that works, there are two or three that didn’t,” he said. “There is a lot of trial and error involved. It can be a beautiful song that doesn’t fit the trumpet, but it can be sung beautifully so you have to go out and make it presentable.”

And his comfort level with experimentation to some degree was aided by a record label.

“Maybe ten years ago I had the good luck to have a record company that wasn’t so drum intensive,” he said. “When you are locked into a groove then crossing into classical stuff becomes more difficult.”

But that’s what makes the shows so exciting, and fans certainly seem to think so. Recently he was at the Fox Theater in Riverside for the first time.

“Wow was that a great audience,” he said. “It was like I was U2 or something.”

The Botti show is a definite experience rather than just a concert.

“Miles Davis released a lot of records, but it was about when he played in concert that was the big deal, and he’d only play the same songs forever,” he said. “How you approach the song is key. You have to engage your audience because they aren’t there because they want to hear the seven new songs off the new record. They want to hear you play, but you aren’t trying to be like a super elusive highbrow thing. It’s making them a part of your world.”

And that world is a very unique one. Quick: How many trumpeters can you name who perform 250 to 300 days of the year?

“There is something to be said for having a career or whatever if you can find your own lane,” he said.  “I’ve found my lane and I’m content staying into it and branching out.”

That includes a long stint in December and January at the Blue Note in New York City.

“It’s really fun, and a lot of people come down and sit in and it gives my friends a chance to see us because we are there for 56 shows,” he said. “People come from all over the world. It’s quite an experience.”

But it’s not just about the city.

“In Temecula I have such a super, diehard loyal fan base,” he said. “We’ll be breaking out a few new things for Thornton!”


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