Trumpeter Chris Botti's solo career took off with the 2004 release of "When I Fall In Love," a CD that critics loved and fans clamored to own. Four No. 1 jazz albums and five Grammy nominations later, "Impressions," his 10th studio album, captured the Grammy Award in February for Best Pop Instrumental Album. This week, he returns to the Kennedy Center for another evening with Steven Reineke and the National Symphony Orchestra.
"Everything is so special about the Kennedy Center," he said. "I've performed there three or four times. The sound is beautiful, and the audiences are giving and warm to jazz artists. Even though I'm advertised as a jazz musician, I don't care about labels. I have jazz elements in my playing, but my scope is so much greater."
Evidence of Botti's enormous scope fills "Impressions," a collection of a dozen pieces ranging in order and style from Frederic Chopin's Prelude No. 20 to "What a Wonderful World," the song everyone associates with Louis Armstrong. In this instance, a new take on an old favorite features Mark Knopfler, the lead guitarist, vocalist and composer for the British rock band Dire Straits. Other artists whose guest appearances on the album mesh perfectly with Botti's musical goals are Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli ("Per Te"), country vocalist Vince Gill ("Losing You"), pianist Herbie Hancock ("Tango Suite"), violinist Caroline Campbell (Astor Piazzolla's "Oblivion") and pianist David Foster ("Summertime").
"Dave said, 'Let's do it without any rehearsals,' so we picked a key and began," Botti said. "We worked intensely to get the mystical feeling of that Gershwin song right, and I believe we accomplished that. The NSO will use my charts for numbers from 'Impressions' that I'll play at the Kennedy Center. When I began thinking about the recording and working on it with the band and soloists, I decided to see what feels good. It was a very hands-on project because you need a one-on-one connection to record live. I was glad to discover that it worked out as we had hoped.
|Chris Botti with the NSO Pops|
|» Where: Kennedy Center Concert Hall, 2700 F St. NW|
|» When: 7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday|
|» Info: $20 to $99; 202-467-4600; 800-444-1324; kennedy-center.org|
"The logistics of getting together with the others to record varied. I traveled to Mark's studio in England and to Nashville, [Tenn.,] to work with Vince Gill. Most of the others came to record at our studios in LA. After meeting Caroline through David Foster, she and I have performed together a number of times. She's been a great asset to many of my tracks."
Botti grew up in a musical household in Oregon. He began studying the trumpet at age 9 and was an admirer of Doc Severinsen, but once he heard jazz trumpeter Miles Davis at the age of 12 or 13, he knew that was the direction he wanted to take. He was such a fine trumpet student that, during high school, he played with the McDonald's All American High School Jazz Band at Carnegie Hall. Along the way, he gained experience playing at Portland clubs. By the time he reached Indiana University, he was so good that he played short tours with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Buddy Rich.
As a studio musician in demand, he soon began touring and recording with Paul Simon, a collaboration that continued for 10 years. During a tour as trumpet soloist with Sting, he began recording on the Verve label and put out three albums. In 2001, he moved to Columbia Records, where he has been recording hit albums annually. Last season, he toured with Barbra Streisand and looks forward to a repeat of that pleasure in June. At the same time, he is contemplating another live recording or studio album if the opportunity arises. One of his goals is to ignite a fire under the young trumpet players who come to hear him.
"When I was growing up, I practiced constantly to perfect my technique," he said. "It's so important for students to keep at it. That's why I want to be a great example for them. A lot of hard work goes into the craft, but it's worth every bit of the effort. My greatest pleasure today is entertaining because I love music and respect musicians."