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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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.