FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Chris Botti says "musical restraint is the most important thing to me ... you need a bit of mystery." The jazz trumpeter joins the Honolulu Symphony Pops Friday and Saturday.
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One day months ago, I turned on a morning radio show while making coffee, but was stopped mid-brew by an enchanting melody.
Jazz trumpeter Chris Botti with the Honolulu Symphony Pops, Matt Catingub, conductor
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Time: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Tickets: $30 to $75
Note: First half of the program features music arranged by Catingub for the film, "Good Night and Good Luck," which Catingub worked on and participated in
Each note played by this extraordinary trumpeter grabbed me by the throat, holding it with just enough pressure to let me breathe but not escape. When my wife walked into the kitchen to ask about her coffee, tears were running down my face.
The music was from 41-year-old Chris Botti, who performs with the Honolulu Symphony Pops this weekend. It isn't Botti's first Hawaii gig; he performed here a few years ago as a member of Sting's band and later took part in a yoga workshop on Maui.
"Yoga really helps in the physical mechanics of trumpet playing," Botti says in a phone interview from New York City. "Yoga is all about breathing and balance, just like playing the trumpet.
"There are two sides to my music: the physical side of just playing the instrument, and the musical side ... and those two things need to be in line all the time. You need to be creative in making good music, but more than that, you also have to be able to play the trumpet correctly, which is a very difficult, unforgiving instrument that has been the downfall of a lot of people for a lot of years."
BOTTI, who for the last five years has had no permanent home other than hotels, is on an extensive tour that stretches deep into next year.
The roadwork is in support of Botti's new album, "To Love Again."
Since Botti released his first solo album in 1995, "First Wish," he's created a series of recordings that have made him a virtual genre-of-one in the realm of contemporary jazz. Through his singular combination of lush atmospheres and thoughtful improvisations, Botti has earned both critical acclaim and mainstream appreciation.
"I'm very headstrong about trying to play just the music I love," he said. "When I was growing up, I loved Miles Davis ... not his funk stuff, but when he played a ballad, it broke my heart.
"All the things I love about music, the yearning for love, the melancholy, the sadness all wrapped together, I found with Miles' stuff."
Davis' recording of "My Funny Valentine" was the epiphany that made Botti want to be a jazz musician.
"The intro with Herbie (Hancock), and the way Miles plays just got me. ... I knew then that I wanted to be a musician and play jazz and go for it," he said. "It wasn't a question of whether I was going to be successful or not, because that didn't really work into my equation. I just knew I was going to be a trumpet player for the rest of my life, or at least die trying."
COURTESY HONOLULU SYMPHONY
Charismatic jazz trumpeter Chris Botti plays with the Honolulu Symphony Pops.
BOTTI, WHO was born in Oregon, was influenced early on by his mother, a classically trained pianist and part-time piano teacher.
By the time Botti reached 16, he was already playing in jazz clubs.
"It wasn't until college that anything remotely revolving around popular music got to me," he said. "Then I moved to New York and became aware that I liked music that was more slow moving.
"I love improvising, but you really need to live the bebop tradition in order to play it," Botti said. "That kind of music, the kind that Woody Shaw played so brilliantly, just moves a little too quickly for me."
Botti's music is more reined-in because it's in a pop format. The atmospheric quality is what he really loved about jazz, and he tries to marry that feel to the textures and melodies. The most recognizable part of his music is the actual tone of his trumpet.
"The way that I phrase and play, the actual sound of my trumpet is very recognizable," he says.
LISTEN closely to his 2003 album "A Thousand Kisses Deep" and you'll hear Botti surrendering to ambient elements in a sea of sensual undertones.
Botti likes making space within the melody, unafraid to embrace the silence inside a track. By utilizing slight hesitations, Botti says he sets the mood by relaxing or enhancing the tension of the moment.
"Musical restraint is the most important thing to me," he says. "I try not to spoon-feed the listeners everything; you need a bit of mystery.
"I have a real strong idea of the kinds of records I like to make, and the kind of phrasing I like to do on the trumpet, and the kind of tone that I like to achieve," he says. "I think a lot of young trumpet players are constantly chasing the ghost of Wynton (Marsalis), trying to achieve that thing, and they just aren't successful at it. I chose the path of being myself."