Chris Botti digs the orchestra experience

05:00 AM, Jan 10, 2013

Trumpeter Chris Botti has performed with Sting, Barbra Streisand, Josh Groban, Michael Bublé, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, John Mayer and more. (Provided photo)/

Written By Leah Stacy

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra is kicking off the New Year this weekend with two performances from world-renowned jazz trumpeter Chris Botti.

Collaborating with Botti for the first time on a Rochester stage will be Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik. (The pair has worked together at festivals in Detroit and Idaho previously.)

I’d seen him on TV specials before that,” says Tyzik. “But when I conducted him, I really got to see the scope of his talent. I think Botti is one of the most phenomenal musicians I’ve ever worked with.”

The shows come on the heels of a big year for Botti and are part of his newest tour. In 2012, the musician was invited to perform with Barbra Streisand — his 50th birthday fell between the duo’s October shows at Barclays Center in New York — and released his 10th studio album. In all, he says, it wasn’t a bad way to celebrate half a century.

Performing with Barbra Streisand was such an amazing experience. It really is the highest honor being invited to stand alongside her on stage,” he says. “I think she has the most extraordinary voice of our lifetime.”

After his October performances with Barbra came to a close, Botti quickly re-launched his tour for the 2012 Columbia release, Impressions.

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,” he says. “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.’ “

For Botti, those upsides include being the world’s best-selling jazz instrumentalist, playing with the likes of Sting, Barbra Streisand, Josh Groban, Michael Bublé, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, John Mayer, Joshua Bell, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Frank Sinatra. Botti also garnered his fifth Grammy nomination (Best Pop Instrumental Album) for Impressions. And though he hasn’t yet taken a Grammy home, 2013 could be the lucky year.

The new recording, which attempts 13 different ‘impressions’ of a ballad, features Andrea Bocelli, Vince Gill, Herbie Hancock, Mark Knopfler and David Foster, among others.

I’m very proud of the album and I think that the overall texture is something I’ve always tried to do,” says Botti. “You want to take the listener on a journey but also keep them in that same mood and I think we were successful at doing that.”

Tyzik agrees.

There’s something for everybody in Botti’s work, and I think that’s part of his success,” he says.

Botti — who’s been known to tour for almost 300 days per year, playing everywhere from Carnegie Hall to Sydney Opera House — comes to Rochester after wrapping up his annual three-week residency at The Blue Note in New York City. It’s his fourth performance here (he played at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival in 2002 and 2011 and a Lifetime Assistance fundraiser in 2008), and he’s eager to return.

There’s always something special that comes along when playing with an orchestra,” he says. “Standing there and playing in front of an orchestra is the greatest feeling ever because there’s this three-dimensional quality and its very sophisticated.”

On the program for both evenings are different selections from Chris Botti In Boston and Italia, pieces from older recordings, and new material from Impressions.

This is going to be jazz played at the highest level our audience will hear,” says Tyzik. “From American songbook to original works.”

Botti will also be accompanied by his band, which includes three-time Grammy winner Billy Childs (piano), Billy Kilson (drums), Leonardo Amuedo (guitar), Richie Goods (bass), Lisa Fischer (vocals), and Arianna Warsaw-Fan (violin).

For Tyzik, it’s a chance to conduct an incredible ensemble, between the orchestra and Botti’s crew.

His band is one of the best I’ve ever heard, like ever,” he says. “I’m not even kidding. I was not prepared for how good they were.”

For Botti, it’s another weekend of doing what he loves.

There is nothing more rewarding than having the opportunity to get up onstage in front of a live audience of enthusiastic fans each night and play with my outstanding band,” says Botti.

I have been very fortunate being able to perform on a regular basis and this is what energizes me each time we go out on tour. I’m so appreciative that they’re there. It’s not lost on me at all that we have fans that buy tickets, take a night off and come to the show. It means so much.”