The show was an eye-opening experience in many ways. I have heard all the talk about Chris, both positive and negative. Without getting into all that, here’s 10 things I learned tonight:
1. Chris has one of the most amazing trumpet tones I’ve ever heard. His low and middle registers are fat and round, and his upper register is clear and bright. We were fortunate to be sitting close enough to the stage to hear the horn pre-PA system, and even more fortunate when he played the final song of the night in the audience, about 10 feet from us. All I can say is wow!
2. This is one of the tightest bands out there! Billy Childs, Geoffrey Keezer, Mark Whitfield, Tim Lefebvre, Billy Kilson, Sy Smith and Caroline Campbell were all amazing. You can tell they’ve been playing together for a while. They were at various times fierce, swinging, tender, sassy, haunting, and at all times completely in touch and in step with eachother.
3. Billy Kilson is a badass!
4. Chris is an amazing entertainer. Whether he was playing, talking to the crowd, directing the band, or bringing two young trumpet players down from the balcony to the front row, he was always in command and had the audience eating out of his hand from the first note to the last note.
5. Chris isn’t afraid to let his bandmates play they way they play. Even though he has a reputation as a ballad player and gets a bad rap in some jazz circles, the band lets loose when they play live and at times played some of the most modern jazz I’ve heard in a while. Sure, these moments were not the norm, but they were there. In particular, Childs, Lefebvre and Kilson were given ample room to shine and show their personalities.
6. Sy Smith can flat out sing! When she took the stage the energy in the room rose noticeably. The three songs she sang with the band elevated the audience and musicians alike. That’s a pretty powerful thing.
7. Each musician in the band is revered on their instrument and the rhythm section is made up of cats with amazing jazz resumes. Together they have shared the stage with folks like Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, Diane Reeves, Dave Holland, Ahmad Jamal, Jimmy Smith, Herbie Hancock and Chris Potter, among others. And yet they all love to play with Chris. In his band they get to travel the world, play with remarkable musicians, and probably make enough money to fund all their other projects. These cats are true Working Musicians. So nice to see them Makin’ it Happen, Livin’ the Dream and Payin’ the Bills!
8. Billy Kilson is a badass!
9. Chris knows the difference between making a record and performing live. To me, his records are the way he reels his audience in, and his live shows are where he brings them along. I’m sure there were many people there tonight who had never been to a jazz concert, and he played just enough jazz to pique their interest.
10. I’m guessing the band plays pretty much the same show every night. But does that matter? I never got the feeling they were just going through the motions. Each band member seemed invested in the moment and played each song as if it were the most important song at that time. What more can you ask for?
11. There’s nothing better than seeing a band that’s having fun! Throughout the show they were laughing, joking, egging eachother on. As an audience member and as a player I sure appreciate knowing that the band is enjoying themselves.
12. People always seem to want Chris to be more this or less that. But that’s their problem, not Chris’s! If you go into a Botti show expecting to see the next Woody Shaw you’re going to be disappointed. But if you go in expecting to see a kick-ass band and be thoroughly entertained, you might just have a good time.
13. Last but not least, did I mention that Billy Kilson is a badass???