Ever since 1995, when he first came to prominence with the CD ‘First Wish’, Chris Botti has gradually differentiated himself from other contemporary jazz trumpeters by ever increasing diversions down avenues of standards, classical music and opera. With a stage presence that is both articulate and magnetic, he has the ability to command an audience of any size and at Humphreys open air concert venue on the rim of the San Diego Bay he did just that. In the company of some of the finest musicians to be assembled anywhere, he captivated the sell out crowd with a performance of rare quality and although some may have been surprised by how removed Botti now is from the smooth jazz format, no one could have been disappointed by the magnitude of the virtuosity on display.
The show opened with Botti’s rendition of the title cut from his 2004 ‘When I Fall In Love’ which here included a jazz drenched piano solo from the Grammy winning Billy Childs. Later, when he revisited this collection for a stunning interpretation of the theme music from ‘Cinema Paradiso’, he was joined on stage by guest violinist Caroline Campbell. This evocative song can also be found on Botti’s latest project ‘Chris Botti In Boston’ and he delved generously into it for ‘Emmanual’ (where Campbell again played her part), the Miles Davis tune ‘Flamenco Sketches’ and most notably the Leonard Cohen classic ‘Halleluja’ for which Mark Whitfield on guitar was outstanding.
Botti’s backing line-up was completed by drummer Billy Kilson, who has been with him for the last six years; San Diego based keyboard player Geoffrey Keezer and bass player Carlos Henriques. All were significant throughout and particularly so when Botti turned to the title track from his 2007 album ‘Italia’. Staying with ‘Italia’, he opted for the heavily operatic ‘Caruso’ which he then contrasted with the timeless ‘The Very Thought Of You’ from the same CD.
A highlight of the entire show was the contribution of Lisa Fischer who, for over twenty years, has been the vocal powerhouse behind live performances by Luther Vandross and The Rolling Stones. First with ‘The Look Of Love’ from Botti’s 2003 album ‘A Thousand Kisses Deep’ and again with ‘Good Morning Heartache’ from the 2005 ‘Duets’ collection she lit up the night.