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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
OTHER REVIEW
Chris Botti / Sunday, August 25, 2013
Chris Botti, trumpet; Billy Kilson, drums; Geoffrey Keezer, piano; Leonardo Amuedo, guitar; Richie Goods, bass; Sy Smith, vocals; Caroline Campbell, violin

Trumpeter Chris Botti

BOTTI'S BAND TRUMPETS HIGH-WIRE DERRING DO IN SUMMER-ENDING WEILL CONCERT

by Philip Beard
Sunday, August 25, 2013

No question about it: Weill Hall was the happening place to be on Aug. 25 with trumpeter Chris Botti and his entourage delivering two and a half hours of jazzy, rocky, funky, high-wire derring-do to an audience that loved every minute of it. Almost.

The performance was stunning both figuratively and literally. Here’s the literal part: too damn loud. I confess to being no fan of blast-amp rock concerts, and my enjoyment of the Botti Band was regrettably impaired by the pounding decibels. Clean and crisp decibels, mind you – state-of-the-art sound system and all – but just too many of them for me. Most of the audience appeared to disagree, to judge by the myriad outbursts of applause.

The hall was maybe nearly full, the empty choir loft being the notable exception; no tickets were sold there, presumably for sound-system-related reasons. The tabled central terrace area out back was packed. Summer casual was the order of the day, befitting the afternoon’s late-summer glory, and fancy hats, ties and jewelry displays were few and far between. The three best-dressed people in the hall were Chris Botti himself, in a plain black suit with black-and-white checked tie, and his two female sidekicks, violinist Caroline Campbell in a black backless gown and vocalist Sy Smith in a dazzling silver sheath. The band was filled out with keyboard, drums, piano, guitar, upright or electric bass, and on several of numbers a tenor vocalist.

The band’s entrance onto the stage occasioned a huge ovation, testifying to Botti’s iconic status in the pop/jazz world. They kicked off the concert with a couple of ballads I didn’t recognize, and whose names I couldn’t make out in the applause din when Mr. Botti announced them afterwards. The mood was set: lush shimmering background chords, snare brushes, and soaring lyrical solos on trumpet and violin. Mr. Botti plays with an adjustable bell mike that produces a darker, more flügel-like quality the farther he bends it into the bell of his horn. The violin’s amplification spectrum included a low register that sounded like a herd of cellos, incongruous coming from this single violin, but effective in its own gutsy, boomy way.

Mr. Botti then took the vocal mike and moved articulately into his role as bandleader/front man. He delivered the obligatory encomia to the venue, praising the hall as “identical to Tanglewood, but when we played there it was raining.” Tanglewood with better weather: a nice encapsulation of this wonderful space.

The bulk of the program consisted of a mix of ballads and up-tempo numbers in various instrumental configurations, ranging from the trumpeter’s “My Funny Valentine” tribute to Miles Davis, to Michael Jackson’s “You Are Not Alone” with a diaphanous vocal solo by guitarist Leonardo Amuedo, to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” featuring another trumpet-guitar duet, to Sting’s bossanova tune “La belle dame sans regrets”, to the leader’s own composition “Italia” with a beautiful solo by guest tenor George Costa, to a couple of Motown-inspired vocals by the slinky scat champion Ms. Smith, to a high-octane funk extravaganza featuring bass player Richie Goods and drummer Billy Kilson. Interjected late in the program was a stellar unaccompanied violin fantasy, presumably by Paganini or some like luminary, that garnered for Ms. Campbell the loudest, longest, best-deserved ovation of the afternoon. An awkward moment was handled lightheartedly when in mid solo something slipped in her mike connection and the techie came onstage and reconnected it, just below the “top” of her dress at the small of her back. She continued with gusto as though nothing had happened.

Ensemble work was generally sound and well-balanced, though at times Mr. Botti’s fortissimo trumpet overpowered his momentary duet mates. Thoroughly impressive were the rhythmic surefootedness and solistic confidence of all the artists. As a trumpet player, Chris Botti richly deserves his star status. He’s obviously worked hard to achieve it, and the results of that work are immediately apparent. His tone is straightforward and honest, employing only a bare minimum of occasional vibrato. Though he lacks the booming low register and the high-range dexterity of an Arturo Sandoval, or the tonguing/breathing pyrotechnics of a Wynton Marsalis, his attacks are clean and accurate, his high notes fat, secure, and in tune, and his breath control absolutely stupendous. Among the high points of the concert for me were two works where he ended holding a pure high note far longer than seemed humanly possible.

It must be said, however, that the default amplification, aside from assaulting one’s eardrums, depleted the potential tonal richness of at least the trumpet and the violin, and I suspect of the vocals as well. Mr. Botti’s tone, though unquestionably solid, was not warm; and Ms. Campbell’s violin too often spoke with an edginess that shortchanged its quality. I guess that’s the price you pay for sound that can be heard a mile away. Obviously lots of people think it’s worth it; I favor of more subtlety.

Mr. Botti handled crowd relations with aplomb. At one point he and Ms. Smith left the stage and marched out to the lawn, to regale the folks out there with some up-close personality. Then they walked back down the main aisles to the stage, ripping/scatting back and forth to each other as they moved through the crowd. The band played a lovely cheesy “happy birthday” to a Jan, somewhere in the audience. And for the penultimate number Mr. Botti invited young Caden, a budding trumpeter from the audience, to come onstage, sit in Mr. Kilson’s seat at the drum set, and bang the cymbals for the climactic last 32 measures or so of funk. The kid did great, and has now got a line in his trumpeter’s résumé that few will ever match. So on top of his world-class talent, Mr. Botti’s a real mensch as well. His folksiness was touching, and obviously appreciated.

Bottom line: Chris Botti and his band provided us with a remarkable afternoon of powerful music encompassing a broad range of styles and talents, packaged in an appealing, heartfelt way that left the audience smiling and shaking their appreciative heads. I’d love to hear it again. At about half volume.