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Recital
DEDIK'S POTENT BEETHOVEN AND CHOPIN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Monday, September 17, 2018
Anastasia Dedik returned Sept. 17 to the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series in a recital that featured three familiar virtuoso works in potent interpretations. Chopin’s G Minor Ballade hasn’t been heard in Sonoma County public concerts since a long-ago Earl Wild performance, and Beethoven’s...
Recital
DUO WEST OPENS OCCIDENTAL CONCERT SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 09, 2018
Before a full house at the Occidental Performing Arts Center Sept. 9 the cello-piano Duo West, playing from score throughout, presented a recital that on paper looked stimulating and thoughtful. Beginning with MacDowell’s To A Wild Rose (from Woodland Sketches, Op. 51), the transcription by an unan...
Chamber
CELLO-PIANO DUO IN HUSKY SPRING LAKE VILLAGE PROGRAM
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, September 05, 2018
Two thirds of the way through a stimulating 22-concert season the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series Sept. 5 presented two splendid cello sonatas before 110 people in the Village’s Montgomery auditorium. A duo for more than a decade, East Bay musicians cellist Monica Scott and pianist Hadle...
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...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Chris Botti Jazz Band / Sunday, August 12, 2018
Chris Botti, trumpet. Musicians TBA

Trumpter Chris Botti

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 energy but only sporadic elegance.

Mr. Botti has said unabashedly that the gauge of success for him is the ability to wow an audience: “When the promoter wants you back, that’s what I keep my eye on. All the other stuff is fly by night. When you go see a concert, you want to have your head blown off. You want to see or feel something you’re not going to see or feel anywhere else. I’ve never had a hit song, ever. Nobody could whistle a Chris Botti song, but I’ve made it a priority to win people over, and I do that, one show at a time.” Judged by that standard, his show was a roaring success, as the terraced lawn outside the open doors at the rear of the hall was also full. I was seated inside and the audience smiled, tapped feet and bobbed heads through more than two hours of music without an intermission. They also gasped with appreciation, applauded loudly, and rewarded impressive solo performances with standing ovations.

If there was any disappointment for the crowd-pleasing Botti, it must have been that much of the audience left between the last number and the single encore. Perhaps that was understandable, since the average age of the audience in the main hall was at least 60, the concert was long and it was getting late.

I last heard Mr. Botti on tour at SF Jazz five years ago, and his band’s personnel has changed since then, as has its repertoire and its approach to the music. For example, several of the dewy-eyed, smooth jazz ballads from Mr. Botti’s early career were still on this program, but only as shadows of their former selves. An updated version of When I Fall in Love, the second tune on the program, began with a soft rock introduction, followed by a characteristic but skillful balladic rendering of the melody from Mr. Botti that gave way after eight bars to a farrago of tempos and feels, from high energy rock to salsa jazz. Next, introducing the group’s rendition of You Don’t Know What Love is, a long-time staple of the trumpeter’s repertoire, he promised to “play a jazz standard for about a minute, then the drummer’s going to drive the band off a cliff.” It was a suicidal exercise that he aided and abetted by doubling and redoubling the tempo at the end of the first chorus.

And finally, as an encore, the group offered The Nearness of You, another smooth jazz ballad from an early Botti album, but here given a funky, two-beat treatment, at a tempo the group doubled twice before the end of the tune.

In between, there were substantial parts for various members of the band, including three vocalists, and they were sometimes accompanied by Mr. Botti, sometimes alone or with other members of the ensemble. Pianist Eldar Djangirov played Variations on Bach’s Prelude in C-Sharp Major, a dazzling fusion of classical and jazz playing; Caroline Campbell, a long-time band member, contributed a violin extravaganza that found her not merely adding drama and expression (like most violin soloists) with flopping hair and impressively flashy bow work, but dancing and twirling across the stage then falling to her knees, with her head thrown back and her violin pointed to the sky, as she played on. Flashing strobe lights and artificial smoke added drama, if more was needed. And finally, Brazilian guitarist Leonardo Amuedo, drummer Lee Pearson, and bassist Richie Goods each had their turn as well, as did singers Sy Smith, Jonathan Johnson, and Veronica Swift. The last sang There Will Never Be Another You at breakneck speed and Embraceable You at a more relaxed tempo.

But at the end of the evening it was still unclear what glue, if any, held the music together. Mr. Botti has said that one of his job as a leader is “to put together a Rubik’s Cube of all-star musicians.” It is a difficult metaphor. Surely, the job of the leader is not merely to assemble musicians but to solve the Rubik’s cube by aligning the different colors and elements so they form a coherent whole.

The driving force behind the performance seemed much more an admiration for awe-inspiring energy and technical skill than a common agreement about the emotional value of sonic depth and subtlety of expression. My colleague Philip Beard commented in a previous Botti band review on the excessively high volume levels in the hall, but volume adds energy, of course, as do jaw-dropping pyrotechnics--long, unbroken strings of sixteenth and thirty second notes, multi-octave chromatic runs and false-fingered tremolos. And so too does extensive use of heavily amplified digital instruments in place of the more subtle, timbre-rich sounds of acoustic ones.

Each of the supporting musicians in the concert had both kinds of instruments on stage and played them at some point in the concert. But Mr. Botti himself has long performed with an electronic pickup clipped to the bell of his horn, the output amplified and enhanced with reverberation. Unless you have heard trumpet soloists like Maurice Andre, Bud Herseth, Wynton Marsalis and Roy Hargrove in person, it’s hard to explain what is lost when the natural resonance and timbre of the instrument and the player’s physical relationship to the horn is washed out by electronics.

The same thing is true of the differences between acoustic and electric bass, acoustic pianos and electronic synthesizers, and heavily miked bass drums and snares and the naturally balanced sound of a drum set. Not just in relationship to acoustics, but in other respects, less is often more in music, and it would have been nice to see more spaces between phrases, more dynamic range, more reflective and less notey improvised lines, and more careful listening and interaction among the members of the group, even during solos. As things stood, it was an impressive concert but not one for those with especially seasoned and sensitive ears.