The Blue Note, December 23, 2012:
Kathleen and I go to The Blue Note in New York to see Chris Botti and celebrate her special birthday. We wait on line for over an hour with some delightful Chris Botti fans. We get a table right in front, to get that up close and personal experience. Molly serves us tonight; the food and service is excellent as always.
At 8:05 P.M. Chris Botti and his band take the stage. He solos extensively for the intro to the first song. His notes are soothing, sumptuous and sustained. Billy Kilson begins his drumming with hushed and restrained rolls that are pointed and exacting. Dan Butler is on guitar tonight and he strums gently and tastefully. The eloquently extended intro continues to build dynamically into the first song, “When I Fall in Love.” The ensemble kicks it up considerably as the dynamic presentation transitions from subdued to blistering. Billy Childs is featured on piano to caress the quiet passage and then Billy Kilson erupts with double time on his cymbals while Chris Botti wails on the trumpet.
Billy Childs’ piano solo maneuvers chromatically through several keys as his melodic prowess shines brightly. The arrangement continues to evolve into a super funky and fiery double-time tempo, showcasing piano, drums and bass that hooks the audience completely.
The next song “Emmanuel” features Juilliard trained violinist Arianna Warsaw-Fan. The arrangement is deliciously slow, sensual and passionate. This extremely personal musical presentation is decidedly honest and evokes a taste of sadness that can bring a tear with each note. Chris Botti and Arianna Warsaw-Fan play a duet that is mesmerizing and takes our breath away.
Before the next composition, Chris Botti describes returning to Poland. He had been requested to play in Warsaw, Poland for a special celebration of the country’s re-entry into the European Union. He introduces his love letter to Poland, “Prelude in C Minor” which is the first song of his new album, Impressions. Arianna’s violin intro is thoughtful and touching. Chris Botti’s trumpet lead is delicate and restrained. Chris Botti builds the melodic dynamics and hands it off to Arianna’s skillful violin. Billy Kilson uses mallets on the drums, showcasing cymbal crescendos for persuasive percussive effect; gorgeous!
Chris Botti always mentions the profound effect that Miles Davis had on his playing style throughout his early years and up to today. The legendary Miles Davis album Kinda Blue contains a composition “Flamenco Sketches” which he will perform now. Billy Childs’ piano ostinato starts the musical sketch. Chris Botti utilizes a muted trumpet that is dreamlike, celestial and truly heavenly. Billy Kilson is magical with brushes on his drum kit. Richie Goods superior ‘walking’ bass drives the song flawlessly. He performs a wonderful and inspiring solo on his standup bass.
Richie Goods employs tasteful and carefully chosen notes with excellent use of rests for clever dynamic contrast. Billy Childs skillfully develops the melody with sweet expression and the occasional splash of dissonance. The band joins emphatically in an up-tempo bop, as Billy Childs soars with ‘comping’ chords and a giddy crescendo. Chris Botti’s trumpet soars to the high heavens as he builds the dynamics and hastens the tempo. The ensemble segues into an seasonally appropriate “Merry Christmas” passage which feels quite natural.
Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” follows, which features a duet with Dan Butler on guitar and Chris Botti on trumpet. The musical mood is tranquil and immersed in deep personal sentiment. The audience is hushed as this deeply passionate song is played with ease, restraint and utmost respect.
Chris Botti introduces the talented Lisa Fischer, who sings “The Look of Love.” We have seen and heard her magical vocal talents with The Rolling Stones for years. The arrangement is joyfully funky as the fiery embers are stoked and hot. There is an intriguing acoustic piano and electric keyboard feature that is performed in unison. The musical mood is entrancing and powerful.
The next song starts with Dan Butler serenading us in a luscious Spanish guitar mode that is delicate and sublime. Billy Kilson demonstrated exquisite brush control on his drums. The Bossa Nova arrangement is absolutely hypnotic and enchanting. Lisa Fischer’s extraordinary vocal technique showcases her amazing control, range and passionate expression. Chris Botti and Lisa Fischer play together in one of the highlight performance moments of the evening. They have exceptional charisma together and effectively cultivate this creative expression into a splendid performance passage.
“The Very Thought of You” is the next delicious musical dessert. Chris Botti’s trumpet solo intro is infused with loving emotion that creates a pastel plume of musical color. The lovely Lisa Fischer ‘skats’ her vocal intro which exudes a sensuous and sexy perception. This again wows the entire audience. The band solos in turn. The guitar solos and then the drums are featured as Billy Kilson’s percussion expression is remarkable. Andy Esrin solos on electric keyboard and displays his wonderful musical taste and superior chops.
Chris Botti introduces Billy Kilson, last but not least, on drums. The final song encapsulates his astounding drum solo. The dynamics are feverishly building with relentless intensity as his drum solo is without compare. You can only watch in absolute awe at his magical musical percussion explosion!!! INCREDIBLE!
My wife Kathleen is spellbound throughout the performance. The lovely couple, Greg and Susan, who sat next to us, thoroughly enjoyed their first trip to The Blue Note.
Chris Botti is here at The Blue Note for approximately three weeks around Christmas, New Year’s Eve and beyond. He and his band are truly exceptional.
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