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Chamber
THREE SONG CYCLES HIGHLIGHT VIBRANT SLV RECITAL
by Pamela Hicks-Gailey
Wednesday, May 08, 2019
An ambitious recital of vocal and piano music was presented May 8 at Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village by mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur. The duo engaged the enthusiastic audience with scholarly friendliness and artistry in performances of Beethoven's short cycle of six song...
Symphony
ALEXANDER TORADZE DELIVERS A LESSON IN SERENITY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 05, 2019
An entire concerto movement consisting of serene piano melodies over a soothing backdrop is probably not the first thing that springs to mind when seeing Shostakovich’s name on an orchestra program, but that’s exactly what pianist Alexander Toradze delivered--twice--at Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony c...
Symphony
MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON CLOSES WITH AUTUMNAL ELGAR AND THEATRICAL BEETHOVEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 28, 2019
Mozart’s enchanting Overture to his opera The Magic Flute, a miniature tapestry of gems from the 1791 work, opened the Marin Symphony’s final concert of the 2018-2019 season. Under conductor Alasdair Neale, the playing of the sprightly seven-minute piece by a reduced-size classical ensemble sparkled...
Recital
SHAHAM-EGUCHI DUO'S EXCITING MUSICAL GENEROSITY IN WEILL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, April 26, 2019
Violinist Gil Shaham may be the most modest virtuoso on the concert stage today, and it is the great music he most wishes to put forward, never himself. Generosity, a quality he is known for, was abundantly clear in Weill Hall April 26 when he performed, with pianist Akira Eguchi, a generous program...
Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
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.