Chris Botti ‘Vol. 1’ Album Review

Chris Botti’s superb trumpet tone is front and centre on this album of romantic balladsHis move to Blue Note Records is transformational.

“I turned 60 in 2022, at a time that seemed like a restart for so many things in the world. I wanted to strip away all the orchestral arrangements and special guests and focus more on my playing, the playing of my band, and these jazz classics that we always love playing on stage.” ~ Chris Botti

There is no better indication of a restart for the music of jazz trumpeter Chris Botti than the title of his latest album, which he has chosen to name Vol. 1. The title is particularly telling when one considers that he has been making records since 1995, and has enjoyed no fewer than four number 1 Jazz Albums. Those recordings, though, have long been considered to be “smooth jazz”, while it was plain to many listeners that his talents far exceeded that genre.

Chris Botti has now made the significant career move to Blue Note Records, long known as the premier source of traditional, authentic jazz recordings, while also making headway into the realm of contemporary and experimental jazz. Established in 1939 by German-Jewish emigrants Alfred Lion and Max Margulis, Blue Note gained its name from the blue notes of jazz and the blues. The current roster includes such luminaries as Patricia Barber, Brian Blade, Bill Charlap and Norah Jones.

The team behind the recording of Vol. 1 includes legendary producer David Foster. Several of Botti’s long time collaborators appear: pianist Taylor Eigsti, saxophonist Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, bassist Zach Moses, keyboardist Julian and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. Noted guitarist Gilad Hekselman and violinist virtuoso Joshua Bell also contribute.

Several years ago Chris Botti stated in an interview that his trumpet idol was Miles Davis, and that as a twelve year-old he committed himself to the trumpet after hearing a Miles recording of “My Funny Valentine”. Chris stated that he loved the Miles records from the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.  His new album fully demonstrates that love, with no fewer than three selections from the Miles Davis catalogue: “Blue and Green”, “Someday My Prince Will Come”, and the centrepiece of the record “My Funny Valentine”, which includes a stunning accompaniment on violin by Joshua Bell.

Botti’s superb tone is front and centre on this album, as are his famed muted sounds and dark, somewhat melancholy lyricism, which are especially appropos to the choice of material: mostly traditional ballad fare. That said, the two contemporary numbers will satisfy Botti’s avid established audience: a  romantic vocal number entitled ‘Paris” with John Splithoff and a Coldplay tune “Fix You,” reimagined as only Botti can.

The album title strongly suggests that a Volume 2 is forthcoming. That would be a wonderful outcome for jazz fans of every inclination. In the meantime, we highly recommend Volume 1. The performances are first rate, the sonics splendid.

Brian Miller

Brian Miller is the Publisher and Editor of Vivascene, which he founded in 2010. A former record store owner, business executive and business writer, he is devoted to vinyl records, classical guitar, and b&w photography.

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