Chris Botti comes to Vilar Performing Arts Center, and ‘never has a backup plan’
Special to the Daily
Two-time Grammy Award winning Jazz trumpet virtuoso Chris Botti has said on countless occasions that he has “never had a backup plan.” With four No. 1 albums, several gold and platinum titles, and a handful more Grammy nominations, it seems like he never really needed one. But there was a time for Botti when, like so many aspiring musicians, the dream he was chasing felt like an insurmountable obstacle. He spent many long days playing on the streets and subway stations of New York City for spare change, and many late nights in rundown lounge bars in the Bronx. Lucky for his many millions of listeners today, Botti was not so easily discouraged.
‘Don’t get too bogged down’
“I really believe that the common thread for anyone who has made it is that when you’re not making it, you don’t tell yourself ‘I’m not making it’,” Botti said. “I think you focus on putting one foot in front of the other and you don’t get too bogged down with not being a big solo artist at that point in your life and it makes the victory that much sweeter when it happens.”
It certainly didn’t take long for Botti’s talent to be realized. His first tours were with the great Frank Sinatra and Paul Simon, and during this time, he was quickly introduced to some of the best music had to offer — Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell, Roger Daltrey and more. After touring with the greats, Botti decided to pursue his own style of music and develop a style like no other.
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His music isn’t just for trumpet players and jazz fans — as he moved through his career, Botti began to experiment with more contemporary sounds, and collaborated with artists such as Steven Tyler, Josh Groban and John Mayer. His jazz-pop renditions would grant him his title as Grammy Award winner and cement him in jazz music history forever. One of Botti’s favorite collaborations was with the rock artist Sting.
“I certainly owe him most of my career for giving me my big breaks,” explained Botti. “The greatest thing I learned from him was finding passion in routine: getting up, practicing, doing yoga, traveling with the band. In many ways, I have patterned my career after what I learned being around Sting. He’s always been the biggest supporter and the best friend. He’s like my big brother, really.”
Whether or not you have any musical ambition, it’s hard not to be inspired in the presence of greatness. Even more impressive than Botti’s long list of accolades is his pure, unhinged passion for performing. In addition to being a world class instrumentalist, he’s also a master at commanding the stage and creating a spectacle for his audiences, which makes him an entertaining act for classical devotees and modern music junkies alike. Even if you aren’t usually a fan of solo instrument performances, then Botti’s fun, energetic shows will have you instantly hooked and begging for more.
His favorite place to perform is at the Blue Note in New York, which he calls “the best jazz club in the best city.”
“By the end of this year we will have been doing it for 14 years and to come to such an incredible environment and have fans come from all over the world, many who have seen us in various cities throughout the world earlier that year — Poland, Australia, Japan — and then they all come to our gig at the Blue Note. It’s a very special feeling and we hope it never ends,” Botti said.
This week, he returns to Beaver Creek to play the Vilar Performing Arts Center, where he’s always had lively and adoring crowds, who love “Per Te,” “A Song For You” and “My Funny Valentine,” which inspired Botti’s love for the trumpet, and which he says he never gets tired of playing.
In the rare times when he’s not performing or practicing, Botti relaxes by doing yoga or playing chess. But lately he doesn’t have a lot of free time, between his current tour and his upcoming PBS Special, which airs Aug. 18 for the August Pledge Drive.
You can catch Chris Botti live in Beaver Creek at the Vilar Performing Arts Center on Friday, July 6. For tickets, go to vilarpac.org or call 970-845-TIXS.
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It’s fitting that Eagle County is proceeding through its reopening phases of COVID-19 in an analogy to ski run difficulties — green to blue to black. Monday marks the transition from the green beginner phase to the blue intermediate phase.