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Night Sessions

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Album Review

At the precise moment when a corporate reshuffling and a reduced roster led to death knells in the press for Columbia Records' jazz division, Chris Botti was signing on after three albums at rival Verve, the jazz arm of Universal. Along with Bela Fleck, poached from Warner Bros., Botti seemed to represent the new lean-and-mean Columbia Jazz, an eclectic, contemporary artist with considerable crossover potential to go with his jazz legitimacy. While the dominant sound on Botti's Columbia debut is naturally his haunting, minor-key trumpet playing, highly reminiscent of the more introspective aspect of Miles Davis, his original music, co-written with one-name producer Kipper, is strongly reminiscent of the pop-jazz approach of his most recent employer, Sting, whose tour hiatus created the opportunity for the recording of the album. Sting even contributes a song, the samba-paced "All Would Envy," complete with lyrics describing a wealthy May-December marriage, sung by Shawn Colvin. But elsewhere his spare, stylish, multi-cultural music provides a guiding principle. Botti is true to the basic tenets of smooth jazz, which hold that a steady beat within a propulsive rhythm track must be maintained, over which the soloist makes his presence felt. But he and Kipper keep things simple, often using an acoustic guitar to create musical textures more suggestive of Rio than west Los Angeles, where the record was actually cut. And even with his less-is-more style of playing, Botti is capable of coming up with melodies that would be strong enough to support lyrics if someone wanted to write them. (A good example is "Light the Stars.") "Easter Parade," the final track, is by the members of the Blue Nile, another good touchstone for the trumpeter's moody, atmospheric sound. The result is a step above most of the cookie-cutter contemporary jazz albums of the day.


Born: 12 October 1962 in Portland, OR

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Though best known as a contemporary jazz performer, trumpeter Chris Botti made his initial splash on the pop music scene. A native of Oregon, he started playing at the age of ten, and began performing professionally while still in high school. After studying in the prestigious Indiana University music program under noted jazz educator David Baker, Botti relocated to New York, where he served with saxophonist George Coleman and trumpet great Woody Shaw. In 1990, Botti was asked to join Paul Simon's...
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