Chris Botti May 30, 2009
Chris Botti Sends Off Cerritos Season in Style
By Glen Creason
You might think Chris Botti is too perfect since he is handsome, witty, extremely talented and one of the most successful Jazz artists alive. Well, some might argue about his sort of hybrid-genre jazz/pop/classical/smooth/new age approach but the jammed hall at Cerritos certainly was in full agreement on Saturday night that his show was probably the season’s best. Botti has so much going for him that he kind of started fifty yards ahead of the pack. His band is superb, lead by pianist Billy Childs, guitarist Mark Whitfield and one of the best drummers you will ever see in Billy Kilson. He had marvelous guest stars including the dazzling violinist Lucia Micarelli and vocalist Sy Smith who not only brought great talent but a feast of feminine pulchritude to the Cerritos stage. Then again, judging from the preponderance of lovely ladies in the crowd on this night I would guess that not all of them were there to just hear the trumpeter.
That is not to diminish the music which was really sweet and strong from the surprising opening notes of “Ave Maria” to the languid beauty of “One for My Baby” that eased the delighted crowd into the night. In between there were enough high-points to fill a high-lights reel and several fevered standing ovations that spoke for the opinion of the assembled about Botti’s performance. The trumpeter is no mere showman but a polished musician with skills beyond the smooth guys he might get lumped with because of big sales. “When I Fall in Love” was at first silky-smooth and then broke off into an improvisational journey with Billy Childs taking it to lands unforeseen that made it clear that this was no noodling concert. “Caruso” did cause some romantic swoons but the tribute to Miles David in “Flamenco Sketches” was real good jazz that gave solos to Whitfield and Botti that would have stood up to any be bop snob in the house. Botti’s reading of the first of two fine Leonard Cohen compositions “Hallelujah” just changed the temperature of the blood and vocalist Sy Smith’s “the Look of Love” proved that pop does not have to be mundane. Yet the wise Mister Botti saved the wondrous violinist Lucia Micarelli for last with “Emmanuel” that put the crowd on its feet cheering at the emotion drenched conclusion. Like Chris Botti she is so accomplished with her instrument she can literally make the melody pulsate with emotion.
The second half was nothing but better. After Sy Smith sang like a nightingale on “What’ll I Do,” the instrumentalist Chris Botti once again chose a Leonard Cohen song and just nailed “A Thousand Kisses Deep.” “Streets Ahead” opened the floodgates for assorted sizzling solos and got the joint jumping but the breathtaking “Cinema Paradiso” again with Lucia Micarelli was the best of the best, gaining the duet another hall-full of standees. The show jumped on to other peaks however, especially an unreal drum solo by Billy Kilson on “Indian Summer” and the final deluxe notes of Chris Botti’s salute to the saloon song singing Sinatra with “One for My Baby” that once more sent the elated crowd to one more standing O.