Chris Botti, 14th Annual Holiday Residency at the Blue Note - New York City Article
Chris Botti, 14th Annual Holiday Residency at the Blue Note Follow @nyccitiview
The Blue Note
131 West 3rd St
Through Sunday, January 6
We think of Chris Botti as a trumpeter with pop and smooth jazz leanings, and, for his 14th annual Holiday Residency at the Blue Note (56 shows in 28 days), he does indeed play at least a few familiar melodies in a highly melodic and mellow fashion, most famously “When I Fall in Love.” But for a lot of his show, his playing is anything but smooth; he can also play in an extremely “rough” style, with jagged edges so sharp that you could practically cut your hand on them. Let’s not forget that one of his mentors was the exceptional, post-bop trumpeter Woody Shaw, and that his playing, in both its more melodic and more abstract modes, is keenly influenced by Miles Davis - especially the very avant-garde mid-’60s Quintet.
As much as we enjoy his playing, and that of his core group, including bassist Reggie Hamilton, drummer Lee Pearson, Brazilian guitar wiz Leonardo Amuedo, and keyboard virtuoso Eldar Djangirov (from Kirghiz in the former USSR) - neither Mr. Botti nor any of his audiences wants to present strictly an evening of instrumental solos, as good as their playing is. What makes Mr. Botti’s presentation a real “show,” as opposed to a “set,” like the majority of jazz performances, is the variety other guest stars: Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, a tenor saxophonist with an affinity for the playing of the late Michael Brecker, Caroline Campbell, an exceptionally-entertaining violinist in a low-cut gown who communicates with her body language as much as her actual playing, and whose feature is a well-assembled mash-up of assorted themes and hooks carefully engineered to sound random.
But it’s the singers who insure that the show covers all the bases. There’s the light classical tenor Jonathan Johnson reprising Andrea Bocelli on “Time to Say Goodbye”), the highly-animated R&B stylist Shayna Steele (who delivers a soulful rendition of “Embraceable You”), and modern jazz prodigy Veronica Swift. Where Ms. Swift seemed like a guest star last year, in this edition she’s much more fully integrated into the group, and served to climax the show by bringing it back to its bebop roots, with an explosive, largely scatted “There Will Never Be Another You” - she’s virtually the only vocalist of her approximate generation who could pull that off.
Author: Will Friedwald
Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, VANITY FAIR and PLAYBOY magazine and reviews current shows for THE CITIVIEW NEW YORK. He also is the author of nine books, including the award-winning A BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP SINGERS, SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU, STARDUST MELODIES, TONY BENNETT: THE GOOD LIFE, LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES, and JAZZ SINGING. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.
SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU - NEW REVISED EDITION (Chicago Review Press, May 2018)