By his own admission, not everyone can afford to share a stage with the preeminent contemporary jazz trumpeter Chris Botti.
Having played at the White House, for the President of the United States, not every venue is going to strike a chord for him either.
Thankfully, Mission Hill Family Estate Winery boasts such an intoxicating ambiance—fabulous sound at the outdoor amphitheatre and an unmatched view of Okanagan Lake—it earned Kelowna an encore performance the moment Botti learned he could return for summer 2013.
“I’m not very good at multi-tasking. I’m good at one thing: being out there playing for people. And I’m good with that,” he said as he explained how a packed touring schedule takes him from Italy to New York with little room for smaller cities like this one.
Some 300 days a year, Botti can be found working a talent honed through years of playing with Paul Simon, Sting’s band and with some of the world’s top musical talents as his own band leader.
“My bucket list is really, really short,” he admits. (Sharing a stage with Peter Gabriel is still on it.)
By and large, what gets Botti out of bed to play every day is the chance to woo an audience, craft sounds he didn’t know where possible and push his own boundaries as far as the world will let him take the four-and-a-half feet of brass beauty that rests in his hands each day.
“You can’t take multiple days off. It’s much more like being a ballet dancer; it’s kind of that non-stop training and stretching so it looks like you’re not doing anything,” he explained. “It’s all to do with breath, stomach muscles, the jaw and the jaw muscles. It’s not like a piano in that way.”
Just like Sting, he’s an ardent yoga practitioner and just like Barbara Streisand, with whom he recently had the pleasure of working, he has a taste for perfection.
“I just found her to be so musical and so allowing of the conductor to take control and not have any distance,” he said, when asked what it was like to work with a woman so revered by fans and musicians alike.
Botti too deserves the kind of deference and recognition reserved for master craftsmen and women.
Coming to fame in his 40s, the musician spent many years working his way up through the industry, living in New York hovels in order to perform, and appreciates what he’s earned.
“When I was able to pay the landlord that first month in New York, I literally thought I had won an Academy Award,” he said.
Had he known the uphill battle he faced, he doubts he would have made it so far; but naivety payed him a favour. Today he can only think of two places he really hasn’t played—India and Vietnam—and he’s working on securing dates in both countries.
Such are the spoils for those who are willing to risk it all to make sophisticated music reach the masses; it’s a road he worries young musicians aren’t willing to travel these days.
“There’s no risk. A lot of it’s lip-synched,” he said. “I kind of wish people would just let go.”
With pop stars tied to ear monitors and enough technological intervention to bleed the musicality right out of the average show, he says he’s drawn to those who are willing to actually go on stage and just play, mistakes and all.
Tickets are still available to hear Chris Botti’s finely-tuned talent dance across the Okanagan Valley on July 12 in one of the most beautiful venues in the valley.