A Botti-Ful Way To Start a Year

Despite things happening that I have no control over, I could not start the year without the best thing in my life: music.

Yep, you know what that means. Second day of the year, before the ink was dry on the first 2013 date, the Blue Note has called my name. Actually, it called my name on Black Friday with $25 off for Chris Botti for that date, but let’s not get too technical. It’s a new year. It’s a new jazz schedule, a new lineup, and a new year’s worth of things to hear, remember, and capture with my camera.

Chris Botti. What can I really say about him that you may not have already gathered? He’s been on Caroline Rhea’s show. Rosie O’Donnell’s. Oprah. He’s firmly established in the world of jazz with a reputation for mellow music that stays in your ear and in your head long after the tune is done. He’s classically trained, and this I can tell by ear alone. And he can make you feel.

Part of the reason why I will always prefer instrumental music is that there is still a story to tell, but the interpretation of the story differs. Instead of the lyrics telling the story for you, the interpretation of the unspoken is a variable that has as many versions as there are listeners. Chris Botti is a particular sort of auditory storyteller; melodic but not overbearing, intricate but not confusing, strong but not pushing it. With him, you get a fairly good idea of what he and his trumpet are trying to say without the words involved.

For best example, find Back Into My Heart.

But in live show, complete with an off-the-wall sarcastic remark once in a while, Chris Botti makes for a whole different kind of magic, and that magic can barely – barely! – be captured in photo. There’s something to be said for the way he phrases when he plays; not quite Miles-like, but similar. Miles liked to speak his phrase and let you absorb, and he would waste no note in getting his point across. Botti is gentler, choosing to ride his melody and let the audience follow without much embellishment, but the concept is similar. Don’t go overboard. Say what you want to say,  but keep it simple.

More is to be said for his guest stars. Lisa Fischer being her spectacular self, Botti outdoes himself with the guest violinists. In 2010, it was Aurica Duca, and she was onstage for only one song, Emmanuel. This year, it was Caroline Campbell, and she is a force to be reckoned with. Classical training all over, power and hard-iron control over each swipe of the bow across the strings, she does not waste a second in delivering. So much so that when Chris Botti let her have center stage at the Blue Note, all I could do was put my camera down and keep a solid grip on it; that’s how absorbing her playing is. She injects so much force into the melody that your perception of a classical violin can’t help but change. You wouldn’t think that this is how that instrument is supposed to sound, especially in a solo setting, and especially in what originally, melodically, starts out as a purely classical piece. She all but stole the stage.

And if this was any indication of how my year will go, then bring. it. on.

Photos from the show can be found here: http://kgilrainejazz.smugmug.com/Music/Jazz/chrisbottibluenote2012/