BOTTI BLOWS HIS HORN
BOTTI BLOWS HIS HORN
A Talent Forged Over a Lifetime of Commitment Comes to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium Stage
By Andrew Cook
Be brutally honest - somewhere in your house, in some forgotten crate in the garage ormaybe the dustiest corner in the attic, lies a neglected, rusting, out-of-tune instrument from your childhood that you can’t quite bear to throw away, because someday soon, as soon as you get some free time, honestly, you’re going to polish it off and re-commit to playing it again, right? Muscle memory will place your fingers right back into the correct positions for the notes and chords to come pouring forth once again, all you need to do is find enough time to go visit that guy downtown with that niche restoration shop who has annoyingly short hours, and there’s never enough parking out front, and oh right, it can’t be this weekend or the next because you have two soccer games and a niece’s birthday party you’ve already committed to…
There’s no shame in saying that most of us have such a neglected instrument kept somewhere in our mounds of storage, picked up with the greatest of hopes and aspirations in childhood (or else presented to us without choice by the nearest adult figure of authority) but left now to do nothing but taunt us with guilt as the decades pass, a physical reminder of a hobby we’ve cast aside while others forced their way in alongside the rest of life’s usual pressing time commitments. We’re so inundated with time commitments and responsibilities in the usual cycle of adult life that the uninterrupted practice time necessary to perfect such an instrument gets harder and harder to come by, so that few and far, far, far between are the cases where middle school music lessons can actually make the transition into adulthood. Even more rare among those are the instances where anything resembling a living can be made out of such commitment.
Which is why musicians like Chris Botti are such a remarkable breed.
There are several words that spring to mind when discussing a talent like Botti’s: easy fall-backs like “virtuoso,” “genius,” or “game-changer.” Ask Botti himself, though, and he dispenses with that kind of gilding, and prefers just to say “I’m a trumpet player.” It’s a simple summation, but don’t confuse simplicity with ease… mastering an instrument in the way Botti has done is about as hard a thing as a person can do.
Born in Portland, Oregon, in 1962 and raised in neighboring Corvallis, Botti started playing the trumpet around age nine. Most American music acts growing up in the 60s and 70s credit a performance of Elvis Presley or The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show as the genesis moment of their careers, but Botti’s came from a different source. At age twelve, he heard a performance of Miles Davis’ “My Funny Valentine,” and from that moment on, he claims, his path was set. He began to play professionally in high school, sitting in with jazz musicians who played in local clubs and venues around the Portland area, and had soon made a name for himself as one of the brightest rising stars in the Northwest jazz music scene.
He headed - as many musicians tend to do - to New York City, and - as many musicians don’t tend to do - quickly found success. Still a young man in his twenties, he began touring with Paul Simon on his Rhythm of the Saints Tour, and proceeded to spend the next decade alternately touring and recording with names like Roger Daltrey, Joni Mitchell, Aretha Franklin, Bette Midler, and others. His biggest break, though, came in 1999, when Sting offered Botti a fixed spot in his touring band from 1999-2001.
Since this era - or maybe, perhaps, because of it - Botti has become the largest selling jazz instrumentalist in the world. With ten studio albums and two live recordings, the trumpet master has been nominated for five Grammys, including a win for his 2013 album Impressions, and has also reached the number one spot on Billboard’s jazz albums chart on four separate occasions. Five decades into playing his instrument, Botti still maintains a superhuman touring schedule; in the years before Covid, it was nothing for him to appear live more than three hundred times in a given year. As such, he’s on record as saying that visitors would find his home apartment to be very sparsely furnished, nothing more than a place to lay his head when he’s not out touring on the road. Even during Covid, when other celebrities took to social media to share their attempts at sourdough bread baking and other time passers, Botti never deviated from his unwavering dedication to the instrument with which he has become so synonymous.
It’s a kind of undistilled dedication, a brand of such dedicated discipline and focus that the rest of us can scarcely begin to comprehend it, let alone appreciate what a lifestyle it’s truly like. All we have to do (and this comes as no great difficulty at all) is to marvel at the result of that lifetime commitment as it pours its beautiful notes from the stage out and over the heads of a packed audience. It’s a shining pinnacle, a reminder of what a person can really achieve if that instrument in the attic is given its fair due.
Chris Botti appears at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium this Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8th, 2022 at 7 PM. Tickets are $39-$99, and are available now at www.lowellauditorium.com, or by calling 1 (800) 657- 8774.