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GRAMMY-winning trumpeter Chris Botti has been one of the most popular instrumentalists in the world for nearly three decades; he’s collaborated with some of the biggest superstars on the planet, including Sting, Paul Simon, Barbra Streisand, Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell, Steven Tyler, Andrea Bocelli, Herbie Hancock, Yo-Yo Ma, and others; he’s topped the jazz charts with numerous albums, earned multiple Gold and Platinum records, performed with symphony orchestras and on prestigious stages from Carnegie Hall to the Hollywood Bowl to the Sydney Opera House.
In short, Chris Botti really needs no introduction. Yet with his Blue Note Records debut, he’s offering one anyway. Vol.1 is in many ways a fresh start for the trumpeter. Having successfully crossed over from jazz renown to pop stardom, Botti’s first album in more than a decade finds him crossing back, with a small group project focused on acoustic jazz and classic standards.
While Botti could boast of the major names with whom he’s shared stages, this project allows him to share his enthusiasm for the jazz greats past and present that excite him – his conversation is peppered with references to everyone from Miles Davis to Keith Jarrett to Pat Metheny to Brad Mehldau. He points to landmark albums like Davis’ Kind of Blue, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, or Metheny’s duo outing with Charlie Haden, Beyond the Missouri Sky as models for the kind of “lifestyle” music he set out to make.
Of course, Botti couldn’t have found a more ideal home for this artistic rebirth. Blue Note has been a standard-bearer of jazz throughout its storied history, and the trumpeter found a receptive partner in label president Don Was. “Anyone that’s lucky enough to say they’re on Blue Note Records should be pinching themselves,” Botti says. “It’s a fantastic honor. I had great runs on Verve and Columbia, so it’s amazing to now arrive on the most famous traditional jazz record label.”
Not that Vol. 1 is a complete about-face – longtime fans will immediately recognize Botti’s glowing tone and regal melodicism, as well as his flair for investing the narrative of a song with high drama and vibrant emotion. Above all, it’s Botti’s clarion, heart wrenching trumpet that seizes he spotlight throughout Vol. 1. From the way he sings the yearning melody of “Danny Boy” to the keening, airy melancholy of his Harmon mute playing on Miles Davis’ “Blue In Green”; the hushed tenderness he brings to Coldplay’s “Fix You” or his shimmering flurries on “Someday My Prince Will Come;” Botti leaves no doubt of his mastery or his ability to speak directly from the soul of the instrument.
The title of Vol. 1 implies a new beginning, but perhaps even more promising is the fact that it also hints at a Vol. 2 – and beyond. “I’m so looking forward to that possibility,” Botti concludes.