On the basis of one of his three nights at Ronnie Scott's, I can report that there are two Chris Bottis.
One is an unashamedly commercial US trumpeter who has said that he realised he didn't want to be a jazz musician 20 years ago, and whose recent recordings reveal him to be a purveyor of sentimental pap - quite high-grade pap, backed by orchestrations of such lushness that they would not disgrace an album by Natalie Cole or Diana Krall, but pap nevertheless.
It was surprising that a schmaltz-merchant of this order should appear at Ronnie's, where the walls are decked with photographs of the likes of Charles Mingus and Dizzy Gillespie, neither of whom would give such music any ear-time.
There is another Botti, though. Evidently feeling he could stretch out a bit in a venue that still calls itself "the world's greatest jazz club", the second Botti showed that he had been listening when he'd been taught by the renowned jazz educators Dave Baker and the later Woody Shaw.
Botti started with two ballads, "Someone To Watch Over Me" and "When I Fall In Love", on which his ornamentation betrayed that he has more tricks in his bag than a very pretty tone. Part-way through each, his band let rip. Backed by the excellent Billy Kilson on drums, his guitarist Marc Whitfield led a powerful fusion groove.
Fusion has a very bad name now, but the fusion of the late Seventies can have a lot going for it. There were moments when I found myself reminded of Steps Ahead, a group through which the likes of Michael Brecker and Steve Gadd passed, or of Steely Dan's instrumental passages.
Botti gave himself greater range in register and more aggression than on record, his solos featuring fast runs and a liquidity of tone reminiscent of Freddie Hubbard; praise indeed.
Botti has been listening to the right trumpeters, and declares himself inspired by the atmospheric side of Miles Davis. One can imagine the four-letter words Davis would have used about Botti's new album, To Love Again. Fortunately, we heard the trumpeter released from the bonds of commerce. Part of him wants to be a jazz musician.Reuse content