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Recital
HOME RECITAL BACH COMPLETES HOLIDAY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 30, 2017
The just closing 2017 year was a calamity for many, but locally in music there were joys galore, and it was fitting Dec. 30 have the balm of two Bach’s violin sonatas in a private Guerneville home recital hosted by the eminent musician Sonia Tubridy. Violinist Richard Heinberg joined Ms. Tubridy in...
Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE WITH SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
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.