The first thing that strikes the listener about Chris Botti’s music is the tone he gets out of that trumpet.
Where have I heard that distinctive sound before?
Then it dawns on you that it hasn’t been around, at least live, for 20 years now. It becomes even clearer when you ask Botti for the name of his favorite trumpet player.
“Miles Davis,” he says, adding that “My Funny Valentine” is his favorite Davis recording. “Miles Davis in the 60’s is great, and I love the aspect of that music where the harmony doesn’t move as quick and you’re not boxed in. To this day, I listen to and follow the music of Miles Davis daily.”
Which is a great place to start, but there is much more to Botti’s music. His style, described by some as “relaxed and moody,” has also found a pop audience. Italia, his most recent studio album, found a home on Billboard’s Top Jazz Albums chart for 78 weeks. He has been nominated for multiple Grammy Awards and in 2004 was named to People magazine’s list of the world’s “50 Most Beautiful People.”
Botti’s current tour brings him back to Omaha and the Kiewit Concert Hall at the Holland Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Dec. 3, at 8 p.m.
An Oregon native who began playing trumpet when he was ten years old, Botti debuted professionally while still in high school and moved on to study music at Indiana University. From there he went to New York and became a top session player, working with such artists as Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin and Paul Simon.
Botti has joined and been joined by others – including Frank Sinatra, Joni Mitchell, John Mayer and Steven Tyler – on stage and in the studio. He told The Reader that “Peter Gabriel” tops his personal wish list of future collaborators.
But it may be his work with Sting’s band that has brought Botti his widest recognition and his most important professional relationship.
“It’s his friendship that I am the most proud of in my life,” Botti told The Reader. “If I were to look at any accomplishment or association, by a long shot it’s my friendship with him. We’re family now and his belief in my career seven, ten, eleven years ago is the reason why I have a career now.”
Music was always a part of the Botti’s life, and the jazzman credits his musician mother with providing early direction.
“Being a piano player, my mom first got me into piano, but as many kids do, I rebelled against it,” he said. “I wanted to do something different.”
That rebellion too form when he saw Doc Severinsen on television, and suddenly, the trumpet and “cool” became synonymous.
“I picked one up, and then a few years later when I was 12 years old, I heard the first three notes of Miles Davis’ ‘My Funny Valentine,’” Botti said. “At that moment, I knew I wanted to be a jazz musician.”
His mother first influenced him in terms of choosing a path to follow and demonstrating how to focus oneself on the pursuit of excellence.
“I learned tremendous discipline from her,” Botti said. “She taught me that the structure of music is as important as the talent, and that being driven and dedicated about something is very important.”
He claims he wasn’t thinking about music as a life experience or expressing himself until he was about 12 and experienced that fateful exposure to Miles Davis, completing his rebellion against playing the piano.
Botti has recently been in the studio, preparing a new album that will receive some of its initial exposure on the tour. Working in London and Los Angeles, he said the new collection is about 70 percent complete. Plans call for it to be released in March or April.
“The album will feature performances with guest artists from Mark Knopfler to Andrea Bocelli and will have plenty of surprises!” he said.
The Omaha concert, Botti said, will feature a variety of selections from Chris Botti in Boston and Italia, to his older records, but he also hinted at surprises. “We have a whole bunch of new material as well, because we have a new record coming out,” he said.
Chris Botti performs at the Kiewit Concert Hall in the Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Farnam Street on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. Tickets are priced from $25 at www. omahaperformingarts.org or call 402-345-0606.