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Chamber
EXTRAVAGANT FUSION OF STYLES AT CHRIS BOTTI BAND WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Jerry Dibble
Sunday, August 12, 2018
Trumpeter Chris Botti still performs in jazz venues including SF Jazz and The Blue Note, but now appears mostly in cavernous halls or on outdoor stages like the Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center. He brought his unique road show to the packed Weill Hall August 12 in a concert of effusive e...
Chamber
SCHUBERT "MIT SCHLAG" AT VOM FESTIVAL MORNING CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 29, 2018
The spirit of 19th century Vienna was present July 29 on the final day of the Valley of the Moon Music Festival. The Festival in the second half of July glittered with innovative programming and the new, old sound of original instruments played by musicians who love music with historic instruments. ...
Chamber
PASSIONATE BRAHMS-SCHOENBERG MUSIC CLOSES VOM FESTIVAL SUMMER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 29, 2018
An extraordinary program of chamber music by Brahms and Schoenberg attracted a capacity crowd to the Valley of the Moon Music Festival’s final concert July 29th in Sonoma’s Hanna Center. It opened with a richly expressive reading by Festival Laureate violinist Rachell Wong and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur...
Chamber
PRAGUE AND VIENNA PALACE GEMS HIGHLIGHT VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 28, 2018
The remarkable Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival presented a concert called “Kinsky Palace” July 28 on their final Festival weekend in Sonoma’s Hanna Center. Two well-known treasures and one lesser gem were programmed. Starting the afternoon offerings were violinist Monica Huggett and Fest...
Chamber
INNOVATIVE CHAMBER WORKS IN HANNA CENTER CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, July 22, 2018
The Valley of the Moon Music Festival presented a July 22 concert featuring three giants: Haydn, Schubert and Schumann, composers who altered music of their time with creative innovations and artistic vision. In the fourth season the Festival’s theme this year is “Vienna in Transition”, and VOM Fes...
Chamber
VIENNA INSPIRATION FOR VOM FESTIVAL PROGRAM AT HANNA CENTER
by Nicki Bell
Saturday, July 21, 2018
A music-loving audience filled Sonoma’s Hanna Center Auditorium July 21 to begin a record weekend of three concerts, produced by the Valley of the Moon Music Festival. The Festival’s theme this summer is “Venice in Transition – From the Enlightenment to the Dawn of Modernism” Prior to Saturday’s m...
Chamber
VANHAL QUARTET AT VOM FESTIVAL DISCOVERY AT HANNA CENTER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 15, 2018
A near-capacity crowd of 220 filled the Sonoma Hanna Boys Center Auditorium July 15 for the opening concert of the fourth Valley of the Moon Music Festival. This Festival presents gems of the Classical and early Romantic periods performed on instruments of the composer’s era, which presents a few ch...
Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
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...
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.