Chris Botti makes a big 'impression'

His new album features a roster of familiar songs and artists
Chris Botti found his calling as a trumpet player at age 9 when he heard Miles Davis play "My Funny Valentine."Photo courtesy of Craterian Performances

Chris Botti seemed destined to become a musician. Born in Portland, he was encouraged to pursue music by his mother, a classical pianist.

"I started playing piano at age 6, then switched to trumpet when I was 8 or 9," Botti says. "I got serious about it when I was 12. It takes awhile for those instruments to light a fire under a kid. Once it ignites, the music serves as a wonderful vehicle for a kid's upbringing. Music can teach so much about discipline and teamwork."

If you go

Who: Chris Botti

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16

Where: Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford

Tickets: $64, $67 and $70; or $47, $50 and $53 for ages 18 and younger

Call: 541-779-3000 or see www.craterian.org

The catalyst came when Botti heard Miles Davis play "My Funny Valentine."

"That had a very profound impact on me," he says. "With his singular breath blowing through the horn on that piece, I knew then I wanted to play trumpet for the rest of my life."

Botti and his band will perform at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16, at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford. Tickets cost $64, $67 and $70; or $47, $50 and $53 for ages 18 and younger. Tickets may be purchased at the theater's box office, 16 S. Bartlett St., Medford, and www.craterian.org or by calling 541-779-3000.

"I'll be performing with a killer band that highlights vocalist Lisa Fischer and violinist Caroline Campbell," Botti says. "At my shows, we move from R&B to jazz, classical and everything in between. People are surprised by the many genres we play."

Botti's 2012 album, "Impressions" on Columbia Records, is no exception. He is joined by such artists as Campbell, Andrea Bocelli, Vince Gill, Herbie Hancock, Mark Knopfler and David Foster for pieces written by a diverse list of songwriters that includes Hancock, Randy Newman, George Gershwin, Frederic Chopin and Harold Arlen.

Botti was determined to include familiar songs: "What a Wonderful World," first recorded by Louis Armstrong, "Summertime" by Gershwin and Arlen's "Over the Rainbow." Yet the album encompasses many other areas.

Botti and his manager and producer, Bobby Colomby, put together a wish list of guest artists. Mark Knopfler was at the top.

"We had the idea of asking Mark to sing 'What a Wonderful World,' " Botti says. "We had a ton of fun recording that song in single take with his band at his studio in London."

It seemed an important piece of the album was in place. Then Botti was commissioned to perform Chopin's "Prelude."

"I immediately realized that 'Prelude' could be the starting point for 'Impressions' as well," he says.

Another serendipitous event — a concert with Hancock at the White House — prompted Colomby to suggest that the two artists compose a piece together. An afternoon of improvisation at Hancock's house resulted in "Tango Suite" for the album.

A similar collaboration between Botti and Foster produced "Per Te," sung by tenor Bocelli, and Gill does Newman's "Losing You" on the record. Colomby also brought Brazilian guitarist Leonardo Amuedo to the studio.

"As soon as we heard Leo, we just started replacing all the guitar parts we'd already recorded," Botti says. "His classic, Spanish-guitar sound is all over this record."

In December, "Impressions" was nominated for a Grammy as best pop instrumental album.

"I like the Grammys," Botti says. "But for me, the biggest reward is making music for people who — if they like it — show affection right then and there. The definition of an artist is the relationship with audiences, not so much the awards."


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