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Jazz with a sting

Trumpet ace Chris Botti attributes his breakthrough into music to a superstar who has become a mentor and a personal friend.

‘A highlight of my career has been my relationship with Sting. He is the guy that gave me my career,” he says. ‘He has become family and the kind of friend to me that I could never have imagined.

That’s probably the thing I’m most proud of, that a guy like that would believe in my music and break the sound of my trumpet around the world.

‘I have worked with so many other artists, my first gig with Frank Sinatra and with the more modern singers Andrea Bocelli and Michael Bublè, but it’s the friendship I have with him that I am most proud of.”

Botti will perform at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz this month. This will be his third visit to South Africa and on each occasion it has been a captivating experience.

He has performed with Paul Simon’s band, which toured the world, and also came to South Africa with Sting nine years ago.

This time he is bringing his own band, comprising guitarist Mark Whitfield, drummer Billy Kilson, pianist Billy Childs, bassist Tim Lefebvre and dynamic vocalist Lisa Fischer who is a regular with The Rolling Stones as well as guest performer, violinist, Caroline Campbell.

Botti is the biggest selling American jazz instrumentalist and achieved this lofty status six years ago with the release of the critically acclaimed, When I Fall In Love. He followed this #1 album with no fewer than three gold records and two groundbreaking platinum DVDs.

His career has been soaring for the past six years and he travels at least 300 days a year.

He says: ‘I will be in Australia just before Johannesburg and then days later I’ll be in Las Vegas. It’s tough on you physically, but I love to be on the road.”

Botti believes most musicians record in order to advertise and promote tours. ‘A lot of artists prefer to make records and that’s it. I want to make a great record that will entice people to come and see you.”

Botti’s concerts vary from performance to performance. ‘We have such great musicians in the band that we just let them do whatever they want to do musically, adding: ‘It’s the same band we are using in Australia and Vegas, but they do something different within the song structure every night.”

Botti is a native of Oregon who was born in Portland, raised in Corvallis, and spent two years of his childhood growing up in Italy. His earliest musical influence was his mother, a classically trained pianist and part-time piano teacher. He began playing trumpet at age of nine and, after hearing a recording of Miles Davis playing My Funny Valentine, realised the instrument was his key to ‘doing something meaningful with my life.”

Over the past three decades, he has recorded and performed with the best in music; including, among others, Josh Groban, Joni Mitchell, John Mayer, Andrea Bocelli, Joshua Bell and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler.

His Joy of Jazz gigs will be a smattering of numbers from the last five years, he said, as well as a fair representation of his newer works.

His passions for playing music and meeting people have kept his career on an even keel. ‘I look at my career and think that for an instrumentalist to have the ability to stay out on the road for 300 days a year is such a barometer for me of success. I feel so fortunate and wake up every day excited. It could have gone so many different ways.”

– Chris Botti performs on the Dinaledi Stage on August 27 and 28 as part of Standard Bank Joy of Jazz.

–Information supplied by Standard Bank Joy of Jazz

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