By Jim Schutze
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For some of us, the phrase "adult contemporary jazz trumpeter" is about as inviting as watching Kenny G dry hump his soprano sax. Indeed, at first glance, Chris Botti's music seems like the kind of lame, manufactured pap to which we avoid giving ink. But this guy's for real--our unyielding notions of musical authenticity be damned.
First of all, Botti has done session work for Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin, and he joined Paul Simon's band in 1990 before going solo. For the past two years, he has played with Sting (for whom he is the opening act) and studied at the University of Indiana under jazz teaching legend David Baker. Second of all, his technical trumpet skills mixed with his musical aesthetics turn the trumpet's cavalry call into a sensual sex scene. His experimental approach to the instrument proves that six hours of practice a day (as he admits) is well worth it. Staking his claim mainly as a contemporary jazz trumpet player, he throws out the "smooth jazz" label with which he has been branded.
"Smooth jazz has become a format for anything adult," Botti says. "Luther Vandross is considered smooth jazz. I mean, what the hell? Anyone who sees me and my band play live knows I improvise a lot and play the trumpet at a high level."
On his latest album, A Thousand Kisses Deep, Botti, with his 1940 Martin Committee in hand (the same model Miles Davis used), covers songs by Burt Bacharach and Leonard Cohen, whose "A Thousand Kisses Deep" is by far the finest song on the disc, with a bridge to the song that Botti asked Cohen to write just for his album.
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