The Palladium Presents: Chris Botti
The Palladium // Sunday, Feb. 9, 7 p.m.
Trumpeter Chris Botti’s blend of jazz, classical and pop music has made him one of America’s best-selling instrumental artists with four albums reaching No. 1 on the jazz charts. His most recent release, “Impressions,” claimed a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album and featured contributions from such prominent guest artists as Andrea Bocelli, Vince Gill, Herbie Hancock and Mark Knopfler.
This show will sell out, so visit thecenterpresents.org before tickets have completely sold out.
We are excited to welcome you back to the Palladium! What did you enjoy most about performing here?
I believe I played at the opening gala when it [the Palladium] first opened, and to the best of my recollection, I referred to it as the other Carnegie Hall—it is so very striking and beautiful. A lot of times, new venues don’t sound as good as old ones, but [the Palladium] sounds great, so congratulations to Carmel.
For those who may not know, I thought it was cool to mention that you attended and graduated from Indiana University and studied under the legendary William “Bill” Adam and David Baker. How did your college career set you up for your professional career?
When I look back at my college career in music, there are three things that contributed to my [professional career]. First and foremost was the [college] curriculum and the professors. I was so fortunate to study with Bill Adam and Dave Baker. Then the second was my classmates, especially when you’re coming up in music. You want to be around like-minded people who eventually go on to do incredible things. Then the final thing that I think separates the IU School of Music in so many ways from other schools like Juilliard and Berkeley is that Bloomington is a culturally diverse city that nurtures and respects the process of being a musician. Bloomington doesn’t have all the trappings of trying to get around a big city [like NYC], where you’re staying out late and rushing into the wrong things. I’m glad I didn’t move to NYC when I was 20 but waited until I was old enough that I could handle it because sometimes it swallows people up.
When did you realize your passion for the trumpet? I read somewhere that you got a “spark” watching Doc Severinsen on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson.
My mom was a classical pianist and wanted me to play piano, and so the original spark was I didn’t really want to play piano. [Laughing] I turned on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. At the time—in the ’70s—there were three really famous people on TV: Johnny Carson, Ed McMahon and Doc Severinsen. I was really taken in by his personality and incredible trumpet playing, so that’s what initially got me to pick up the trumpet in the third grade. By fifth grade, I was already pretty passionate about the trumpet, but when I was 12 years old, I heard a Miles Davis album, and that’s when it “clicked.” I remember telling my mom that I was going to be a trumpet player or fail trying. I knew then that music would be my life’s work early on [in life], and that’s not an uncommon thing for a lot of musicians. You just somehow instinctively know.
You’ve played with so many iconic artists including Tony Bennett, Herbie Hancock, Lady Gaga, Sting and Sinatra. What’s the one commonality they have that resonates with you?
I’ve been talking a little bit about that onstage lately. I look back at the artists that I was drawn to and spent time with, like Sinatra, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Sting, etc., and I think those artists are radically different from one another and yet the similarities are pretty profound in the sense that they really value the musicians that they are on stage with.
Back in the day, Sinatra would come out and acknowledge the orchestra and the musicians. It’s a very old-school way of running a band and being a band leader, and I learned a lot from being around those people. I remember Sting telling me, “The brighter your star shines, Chris, the happier I will be.” I try to pass that on to my band. I want a band that can swagger all over the stage—musically—because it will make the show more memorable for the audience, and that’s what you want.
Knowing that we are the last generations that can say they saw, knew or performed with Frank Sinatra, how does your time performing and knowing Sinatra affect how you lead your band and show today?
I remember my first day with Sinatra—I’d just graduated IU and went on the road and out walks Sinatra. Not only did he acknowledge the band and expect that kind of swagger from the band, but he also acknowledged the audience. I also became friends with Don Rickles, and though it was his job to interact with the audience, people like Don and Sinatra had this ability to bring the show to the audience and make it conversational. I am so happy that I came up [in the industry] when I did. It impacts the way I run my band and show, and I hope that people remember my show based on those old-school techniques.
Your fans who have seen you live and in color already know what kind of incredible and unforgettable show to expect when you come to Carmel next month, but for those who are not as familiar with your show, what can they expect to see and hear from you?
The question you’re asking me, in one framework or another, is the most difficult thing for me to answer and yet is the single most powerful thing that fuels my career. Let me give you an example: I’ve invited friends of mine to one of my shows in L.A. or somewhere that have not seen me play before and they’ve sheepishly asked, “So, Chris, is it just you on stage with a trumpet?” It’s hard for me to put a banner up and say, trust me when I tell you that you won’t see a better collection of an all-star band with a pianist, violinist, two singers, drummer and guitarist.
How is the show different from your albums?
It is a full-on all-star show that is completely different from my records, which are meant to be emotional or romantic. When we come and play a live show, it’s muscular when it needs to be and shows off all the chops. It has a “wow” factor, and so I guess what I’m getting at is trust me, you won’t see anything like this out there touring, and it’s hard for me to say that without sounding like a pompous a******. This show truly is a collection of musical all-stars, and it’s very gratifying [for all of us] when people come to see us perform.