11 June 2011

Botti as in goatie

Is it Botti as in goatie or Bottie as in tottie? I’m Italian so I was of the tottie (or Totti) persuasion, but the radio (ArtSound and ABCRN) was using Botti as in goatie. To my surprise, Chris Botti was to appear on Life Matters on ABC RN and the theme was toast: he’s such a traveller that he hadn’t toasted a slice of bread in 10 years, or for that matter, cooked anything. An itinerant troubadour, I thought, not sure I’d like that life. I like my morning toast with honey or perhaps jam. But my mind wanders further. To me, goaties signify beatnicks and the ‘50s and Maynard G Krebs and cellars and cool jazz and bongos and post-bop. Very cool. Is Chris Botti cool?

To my surprise, he was. There was considerable soft-pop in his show, Ave Maria with the longggggggg trumpet note, string pads, Nessun dorma (always stunning but who can trust such easy emotions), sexy suits and frocks, even a contortionist rock-cum-classical violinist. And lots of name dropping amongst the stage patter (Sting and Herbie Hancock and Rolling Stones and Grammies and 4.5 presidents). But that’s the style. This is not music for the initiated. This is jazz crossing over to popular styles so that’s all to be expected. It’s a tough market out there. There was also some decent funky playing, several Miles tracks, some great soul singing, a fabulous trumpet tone and some very lithe and clean lines and a certain amount of dissonance. It’s the same argument we had over George Benson and similar to those over Herbie Hancock and Bob Dylan. Yeah, the state of the art is somewhere else, but this approach spreads the word, brings in an audience (not that many will end up with the avant-garde) and fills theatres and stadiums not just clubs. And he didn’t just play standards with hot solos like some popular jazz names. This was a show. He went into the audience; he played to a 4-year old at his first jazz concert; he brought up an unexpecting student drummer, Rohan Moore, who had been at his workshop at ANU the day before (and treated him well); he chatted and involved the audience, and even infiltrated some jazz lore and history.

The repertoire was mixed opera-pop and standards. Ave Maria, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, Cinema Paradiso, Nessun dorma. All infectious songs if often syrupy, but well-known and you can’t help but fall under their spells. The standards were equally attractive and mostly balladic - My funny valentine, Willow weep for me, The look of love, When I fall in love – done with funky energy or deep melodrama but always as showpieces. And Flamenco sketches from Kind of Blue with a very nice bass solo and an introduction that taught me something about Miles and Kind of Blue and that tune. As I said before, the trumpet was full and rounded and clear and rich with reverb and CB had impressive technique. Pianist Billy Childs was a lynchpin and played some very sophisticated jazz solos, although I couldn’t hear him too well. He was left of stage and I was right, and I’m guessing the PA was stereo. Andrew Ezrin on keys, Mark Whitfield on guitar, Carlitos Del Fuerto on bass and William Kilson on drums did commendable jobs and seemed to be having a great time. This band has been together for 7 years and there seemed to be real enjoyment on stage as well as a bit of tongue-in-cheek showmanship. I liked that. The features were Caroline Campbell on violin and Lisa Fischer on vocals. Caroline was sexy in a body-hugging evening dress that clung to her every frequent movement (pant pant). It’s all part of the show along with Chris’s natty suit and the shaved heads and some Jagger-like revealing leather. I don’t know violin, but her classical solo in a gypsy-like piece was well intoned over long intervals and all four strings at speed and certainly impressed me. Lisa was great soul singer with a large range, gospel inflections and a mic technique that was a revelation.

OK, so it’s not the bleeding edge, but there’s room for CB in my jazz universe. I’m happy to call Chris Botti cool. Chris Botti (trumpet) led a very entertaining jazz show band with Billy Childs (piano), Andrew Ezrin (keyboards), Mark Whitfield (guitar), Carlitos Del Fuerto (bass), William Kilson (drums) and feature front-liners Caroline Campbell (violin) and Lisa Fischer (vocals). Rohan Moore was called up for drum duties on Nessun dorma.

1 comment:

percussion said...

Botti was cool on this evening. I have been wondering if it really is Botti - goatie.