CONCERT PREVIEW: Chris Botti staying focused on his musical craft; performs as part of Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest

Chris Botti
Chris Botti SUMBMITTED PHOTO
Chris Botti
Chris Botti SUMBMITTED PHOTO

IF YOU GO

What: Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest presents Chris Botti.

When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 20.

Where: Santander Performing Arts Center, 136 N. Sixth St., Reading.

Tickets: $34.50-$78.50.

Info.: (610) 898-7299, www.santander-arena.com.

Trumpeter Chris Botti has successfully blended jazz and pop since 1995, winning a Grammy and selling more than 4 million albums.

On Oct. 20 Botti will appear at Reading’s Santander Performing Arts Center, but because his tour has him traveling outside the country, email was the best way to get a hold of him. Here’s what he had to say when we submitted some questions:

Who is the top musical artist you’ve worked with?

Sting, by far. I certainly owe Sting most of my career for giving me my big breaks. I’ve learned so much from him such as 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 him for those two or three years on the “Brand New Day” Tour. When I was in his band, he gave me so much exposure by doing solos with me and really promoted my career in a big-time way. But it was his urging that really made me, and the opportunity to be his opening act throughout the world, that really launched my career in a big-time way. He’s always been the biggest supporter and the best friend, and he’s like my big brother, really.

Advertisement

How much of a role did PBS play in exposing your music to a wider audience?

PBS has been a HUGE part of my career. I’m very grateful for being given the opportunity to have two PBS specials, and I hope we’ll be shooting my third special soon. The support of PBS has helped allow me to tour all over the US and it’s been an amazing experience getting to meet all the wonderful PBS supporters at my shows.

What music are you listening to for fun these days?

I listen to Keith Jarrett; when he plays solo piano it’s mesmerizing to me. I listen to the singers I’ve worked with, who I like — Frank Sinatra and Sting. I listen to some classical music like Mahler and Chopin. I don’t find myself listening to a lot of different music, although I’m aware of it. I like Coldplay — great band — and John Mayer who I think is a very talented artist.

What’s the best advice you ever got?

It may sound cliché, but how do you get to have a career where you can travel the world and play your music? You have to practice, and have behind it the intent to sacrifice a lot. People say: ‘I would practice’ or ‘I did last week,’ but you have to put years and years and years of practice in, and keep having that satisfaction given to you by the instrument. Practice, and not to veer off too much, is probably the best advice I’ve been given, and I keep seeing it in other people I recognize to be very talented. People like Sting have that very driven, focused, workman-like attitude built around the fundamentals of music, rather than the pop culture aspect of it.

I think the only time you’ve sung on one of your albums was “December.” Why haven’t there been any other experiments like that?

It’s not something I’m interested in doing. The trumpet is an instrument that requires daily attention to keep up your chops. I’ve worked so hard my whole life to get the trumpet to have a beautiful low-end and not shrill type of sound. My only focus is maintaining the sound of my trumpet, and also ‘Do I have a growing audience?’ and ‘Are my fans at my concerts enjoying themselves?’ As long as these things are taking place, I am more than happy.

What are your favorite albums of all time?

Miles Davis — “My Funny Valentine,” Keith Jarrett — “The Melody at Night, with You,” Frank Sinatra — “Only the Lonely.”

Will there be any other surprise non-musical appearances by you, like the “Chill with Chris Botti” radio show or “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills?”

No, nothing like that. My focus is to continue touring. I don’t have a life outside of my music. I mean, it sounds crazy to say, but it’s really sort of the truth. I speak to young people all the time, and say: ‘If you’re really sure you want to be a touring musician, then you have to really love it and that means you may not be able to have a dog and a plant and a cat, and you know, relationships can be very difficult, but the upside is so fantastic.’ I have found myself in the last 14 years being in this constant orbit and I love it!

What can we look forward to hearing at the Santander Arena?

We will be playing lots of different selections from “Chris Botti in Boston” and “Italia,” to my older records, as well as material from “Impressions.” More importantly, you’re going to see one of the best bands working in any genre of music today, so you should expect to have a great time and hear a variety of sounds from jazz to classical music and rock. It’s funny, I have really good friends of mine who have never seen my show and I’ll be playing in their area and I’ll invite them to come. The day of, they’ll finally get up enough courage to ask me: ‘So, is it just you, like, with a trumpet?’ I feel that my career has been about winning over one person at a time ... kind of like hand to hand combat. One audience at a time, one individual at a time. Because once they see it, they get the whole scope of it. They come up and tell me, ‘Oh my gosh, I cried during the show,’ or ‘I’ve never seen musicianship like that before,’ or ‘That was really funny, and the guitar player is crazy,’ or that they really had so much fun and just thoroughly enjoyed the show. People don’t know what to expect from a trumpet player and so it makes the ladder so much steeper. This is one of the reasons I tour so relentlessly, I have a chip on my shoulder about it, and then of course, once you get up there, you want to stay there!