Chris Botti – Trumpet Interview
Welcome to the show notes for Episode #24 of The Other Side of the Bell – A Trumpet Podcast. This episode features trumpeter Chris Botti.
Listen to or download the episode below:
About Chris Botti
Chris Botti’s music career started early in his own home. His mother, a concert pianist, encouraged him at the age of 9 to start playing the trumpet. At 12, he heard Miles Davis play ‘My Funny Valentine’ which solidified his dedication to the trumpet and his musical vision.
After growing up in Corvallis, Oregon, Chris attended Indiana University where he studied with trumpet teacher William Adam and jazz educator David Baker. During two summer breaks, he received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts which allowed him to study with trumpeter Woody Shaw and saxophonist George Coleman.
At the end of his college career Chris decided to leave, going on tours with Frank Sinatra and Buddy Rich. He moved to New York in 1985 and starting playing with artists which included Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Sting, Natalie Cole, and others. During this time, he made many creative connections that only furthered his musical career and vision.
Chris Botti Links
[0:00:00] John Snell: This is The Other Side of the Bell Episode 24.
Hello and welcome to the other side of the Bell. A podcast dedicated to everything trumpet brought to you by Bob Reeves Brass. We’ll help you take your trumpet plane to the next level. I’m John Snell trumpet specialist here at Bob Reeves Brass. And I’ll be your host for this episode today’s episode and we’re marking two years of trumpet podcast.
Here is a special one. We have Grammy award-winning trumpeter, Chris Botti. I really think you’re gonna enjoy what Chris had to say about trumpet music and the keys to his success. And I want to get to Chris’s interview as soon as possible, but we have a lot of exciting stuff going on here.
Uh that I wanna let you know about as you know, we’ve been featuring students of Bill Adam from Indiana University and Chris Botti will be the third. Uh previously, we had Jerry Hey in January and then Bobby Burns uh last episode and we’re doing that, we’re featuring former students to help get the word out that the first annual William Ada seminar will be taking place this June 2015 at the University of Oklahoma in Norman organized by Dr Karl Sievers. The seminar will feature first generation students of Mr Adam in performances, master classes and panel discussions. I’ll be there as an attendee. I just signed up today as a matter of fact. And I hope to see you there too. You can learn more and register online at William Adam trumpet dot com. All one word William Adam trumpet dot com. Of course, we’ll have the links on the show notes for this episode as well. If you register before May 1st, you can get an early bird discount. So uh the sooner the better.
As I mentioned, the last episode, many of you have been requesting more information on Jerry Hey and Larry Hall’s 7 to 8 hour, not 78 7 to 8 hour intensive routine that they used to do in Indiana when they were there. Um I last episode, I mentioned that I’m working on getting the routine together and I’m happy to announce that uh I have something posted uh the details of what they used to work on and uh after several calls and emails with Jerry and Larry and a wonderful, wonderful afternoon blowing routine with Larry at his house. Uh I uh got it all put together and posted for you so you can see what they did. Now, of course, you know, it’s not anything magic about it. Uh So just because they did that order and those notes doesn’t mean you’re gonna get the same results as they did, but it’s good information and a lot of interesting things that they did. So you can go to Bob Reeves dot com forward slash 24. That’s the show notes for this episode and I’ll have the link there. Uh, also a big thank you to Jerry and Larry for taking the time out of their days to put this information together
As you know, this podcast is brought to you by Bob Reeves Brass. And if you’ve listened to the other episodes, you know, uh everything that we do and I’m not gonna uh go through that this time. Uh But if you’re interested for in a mouthpiece or valve, I give us a call or email, I do want to let you know that in April Bob Reeves along with Mike Davis and myself from the shop will be heading down to Australia. We are bringing a boatload of mouthpieces. Well, at least a plane load uh along with our travel lathe so we can do valve alignments and maybe even a few vanilla instruments. We will be visiting Melbourne for the Australian Trumpet Guild event at the University of Melbourne and then off to Sydney for three days. We’ll be in Melbourne starting April 17th and we leave Sydney on the 23rd. We’re still working on nailing down exact dates and times. But when we do know the details of the trip and all the information you need will be at Bob Reeves dot com forward slash Australia. So, Bob Reeves dot com forward slash Australia. And we hope to see a lot of you guys there then in May, we’re gonna be in Columbus, Ohio for the 40th annual International Trumpet Guild Conference. Bob Reeves Brass is proud to be a platinum sponsor of this year’s event. As always, we’ll be doing VVE alignments have over 350 mouthpieces with us. And of course, a great chance to meet and consult with Bob Reeves himself. We’ll have Van Laar Instruments there as well for you to try out. So to get more information and to reserve your spot, they go quickly for your valve alignment at the Trumpet Guild conference. Go to Bob Reeves dot com forward slash itg. But wait, there’s more as I mentioned, I be at the William Adams seminar in Oklahoma and I’m working on, uh being able to do valve alignments there and bringing a selection of mouthpieces and some other fun goodies. So if you’re happy to go to that event and or you’re near Oklahoma, we might be able to meet up there. That’s in June, uh the fourth through the seventh, there’s even more. We’re working on another trip to Japan in Honolulu, Hawaii. It’s in the works. We’re still working on dates. Uh But certainly in the second half of the year, Bob Reeves and crew will be going over to Japan and to Hawaii for valve alignments, mouthpieces van, our trumpets, you name it. So, if you can’t make it out to our shop here in California, well, there’s a chance we may be coming to your neck of the woods. You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter or Check Bob Reeves dot com to stay up to date with all of our events. Also, I want to let you know that we are starting a second podcast. It’s gonna be a trumpet tip tips podcast that we don’t have a name for yet. Uh But if you go to Bob Reeves dot com forward slash podcast, uh we’ll get you the links on how to download, listen and to subscribe in itunes. It’s gonna be a shorter format. The first couple of episodes we’ve already recorded, uh, that we talk about mouthpieces, how to choose mouthpieces, the different parts of a mouthpiece. We’re gonna get into different aspects of trumpet playing, like doubling on trumpet and flugelhorn, maybe buzzing mouthpiece, buzzing versus not buzzing, just general discussions. Things that we don’t get into here with our interview and our guests. So you can go to Bob Reeves dot com forward slash podcast to listen to the other podcasts that we’re gonna be starting up with. Hopefully a catchy name.
All right. Thanks for sticking with me through all of that. Today’s special guest is Grammy Award winning jazz trumpeter. Chris Botti. Chris has had a remarkable career starting as a freelance session player in New York. While in New York, he joined Paul Simon’s band with whom he recorded and toured for almost 10 years. Then in 1999 he was asked to tour with Sting, culminating in a live DVD in 2001. It is Chris’s relationship with Sting that he credits for his success. Today. Chris has recorded 12 solo albums and his latest impressions won the Grammy for best pop instrumental album. Chris plays to sold out audiences around the world including a recent 21 day 42 show run at the world famous Blue Note in New York. I recently joined Chris up in San Francisco before one of his performances, which was sold out. So here’s my conversation with Chris Botti.
We’re in lovely San Francisco. I’m sitting down with Chris Botti. Chris, thanks for being here with me today.
[0:07:50] Chris Botti: Thanks for having me. And it is a beautiful day out as we can see from the windows.
[0:07:56] John Snell: Well, let’s uh let’s start off by talking about how you started playing the trumpet.
[0:08:01] Chris Botti: I am. Well, not unusual is a power of television being what it is. I turned on the TV when I was a kid and I’ve been playing piano, my mom was a piano teacher. Um and I’ve been playing piano since I was six and like a lot of kids, I, I kind of didn’t really love playing the piano, kind of rebelled against the fact that my mom was a piano teacher, et cetera and turned on the television and there was Doc Severinsen, um, and his, all of his fabulousness and his great suit and his, his incredible trumpet playing. And I thought, well, that’s interesting. And I was in third grade and started to, um, play the trumpet or cornet at the time. And by the time I hit fifth grade, I, I realized probably I wasn’t gonna be Michael Jordan. You know, I mean, I think that there comes a time in a kid’s life where they realize that their body may not be as big and strong as the other kids. And so then what do you do? How do you kind of define yourself um and be proud of yourself with something. So I thought, well, I’m already two years ahead of the other kids that play trumpet because you, you usually start in fifth grade. And um so I thought I’m gonna, I’m gonna keep, keep at this. And then when I was 12, a few years later, I heard uh Miles Davis on an album and uh called My Funny Valentine. And two seconds into hearing his trumpet sound, I thought I want to be a trumpet player. I didn’t think about career or sitting here doing interviews or something like that. I, I thought my relationship to that instrument was so powerful and still is to this day that II I knew then that, that’s what I wanted to commit my life to and it seemed like a very easy shot, you know, just to go keep moving along that path. So,
[0:09:43] John Snell: it sparked a passion and you absolutely. Uh, did trumpet come easy to you early on? Was it like a natural thing for you or did you have to, did you take trumpet lessons at that age?
[0:09:53] Chris Botti: Yeah. My, my mom was, it was a really cool thing my mom did for me. She, she instigated me this, this knowledge that, you know, your life. And I grew up in Oregon, I grew up in a very small city in Oregon called Corvallis. And my mom got me to think along the lines of your life doesn’t need to just be the band director that’s assigned to you. Your job is to go out and find the best person to give you lessons and go after that person. So my mom thought, well, let’s, let’s call the pre you know, the principal trumpet player of the Oregon Symphony. So she just cold called him. And uh we went up and I started taking lessons with this guy very, very early on. Um Fred Sauer is his name and we, I studied with him for many, many years. But I mean, did it come easy to me? Certain things came easy to me like the musicality part of it and the sound of my trumpet. I’ve always been very, very proud of chops articulation range. Flexibility, power, strength, endurance that came about three weeks ago. So I, I think it was a very, very, very long ascent to um to, to having a real command of the instrument. I feel like a little bit like an opera singer. My, my maturation process happened much, much later. I was quite immature playing physically uh well into my twenties and stuff like that. I mean, but what I had was good musicianship. And so I think that one counterbalanced the other.
[0:11:28] John Snell: So you’re finishing up in high school, was it clear to you? You wanted to go on into music and pursue that?
[0:11:33] Chris Botti: It was clear to me when I was 12. You know, I mean, I left my mom no choice. I always joke around about this by saying parents, you know, the, the the parents all sit around when their kids at eight and go oh little Susie or Johnny is gonna be the next Beatle. I promise you he’s gonna be Paul Mccartney, right? And then when the kid actually comes out of the practice room and says, ok, mom, I’m ready to move to New York or L A. The parents goes, ah, I don’t want you to do that. I want you to be a doctor. You know that there’s this kind of self preservation that they want, they want to take care of the kid. And my mom let me do it. She let me get on you know, leave and go to school and uh go to Indiana University. Uh I met David Baker, the famous jazz instructor there and, and uh primarily moved to Indiana to study with him. And it’s there in Indiana that I met Bill Adam and that sort of really began the process of trying to uh solidify my trumpet playing because I, I’ve always said like when you’re a trumpet player, if you’re a jazz musician, if you’re a musician and you happen to play the trumpet, you’re talking about two very important parts of a train track. Uh One is the physical nature of the instrument and the other is the musical instrument of yourself as a human being. And if one of those parts of the train track diverts the train goes off the tracks, you derail and I know a lot of fantastic musicians that can’t get the way around the trumpet at all and subsequently can’t do anything in music. And I know a lot and, and vice versa, I know a lot of great trumpet players that have no musicality and they’re in the same boat. And so you got to really kind of nurture both of those things uh as you go forward in your life to make sure that you are a great musician and, and you have command and you can speak on the instrument. And ultimately, what you’re looking for, the ultimate goal is to have a thumbprint musically on your horn that means not just that you think you’re good, that means that to the general public, they know who you are. And that’s a very, very rare thing and I’m lucky to be able to have that. And I’m very recognizing that I’m lucky that I have that.
[0:13:43] John Snell: Uh, well, let’s, let’s talk about how that developed because I’m sure a lot of your development occurred while you were at Indiana. Um, I, and I’d like to spend a little time on both of your teachers there. Um So I’m assuming that you got most of your jazz education from David Baker. And then, uh so let’s start there. How did, how did he help you develop?
[0:14:04] Chris Botti: Well, David is, I think that the great teachers and I would say Mr Adam and David Baker, you know what they have that almost trumps, you know, a minor d minor blah, blah, blah, blah, blah Charlie Parker. All the stuff that you want to learn is they have passion and that the passion, their acceptance for the kids, the, the warmth that they exude. It makes it so much more um en enlightening, it makes the kid want to get better. You know, there’s a, there’s a, there’s this new Academy Award movie called Whiplash where the um where the band instructors really mean to the kids. And I disagree with that kind of approach wholeheartedly. I don’t think it’s a, I don’t think it, I’ve never seen a kid that that gets really bruised by the teacher day after day after day after day and, and, and turns around and become something good. They, they sort of like they kind of go off into the, into the woods and never come out so to speak emotionally, you know. And David was, was brilliant to everyone. He was brilliant to the great Bob Hurst and Jim Beard and Ralph Bowen and all the guys that went there. But he was also really, really accepting and brilliant to the, the people that were just taking jazz studies as a minor, you know, and so I love that about him. And oftentimes he would just come into class and he would just play things and he, and he, he tried to light the spark under the kids of not only what’s good music, but actually play them good music and get them interested in it vis a vis what’s coming out of the speakers rather than what he just spoke from from a textbook. He, he was a very kind of old school style of teacher. It’s like hanging out with a great jazz musician in a nightclub afterwards except you’re in school. And, and David has this rare combination of being able to be um a university teacher, but also a hip jazz guy that you’d want to hang out with and it makes you wanna learn, it makes you want to call him up and we’d go listen to jazz groups up in India and he’d drive the guys up and me and Sean Pelton and it was just fantastic. Um, and, and Mr Adams certainly has that same thing, that joy, that love, that acceptance, that, and it makes you really want to get acceptance from him to please him to play better to, and, and, and it makes this camaraderie within all the, the kids in the school. So, even though there’s competition, there’s also camaraderie and everyone’s rooting for one another, even though they probably wanna kill the other person.
[0:16:42] John Snell: Uh Well, since you brought up, Mr Adam, can you talk a little bit about that because he’s um uh maybe one of the most misunderstood teachers out there because there’s the internet, there’s the Adam routine that’s like 12 or 13 pages that’s been photocopied a million times. Uh But in the players, we’ve uh I’ve talked to, they never had a set routine. Uh So can you talk a little bit about what you did with him?
[0:17:06] Chris Botti: Yeah, I was probably the, the, the black sheep of the, of the, of the studio because while all this was going on, while all the kids were learning the routine, I was kind of running around going. Yeah. But what about Miles Davis and all the kids would be going? Oh man, he can’t play the trumpet. I like, no, he’s great, you know. And so, so I would say that maybe I’m kind of an albatross in that way. But, but, but the, but the reality is there hasn’t been a day since I left Indiana where I haven’t woken up and gone, man. Am I happy? I studied with Mr Adam. I mean, for the sheer fact that, you know, my trumpets sitting behind me here and, you know, for the last 15 years I’ve played, I’ve been blessed to have this trumpet. I’m, I’m so committed to it and I’m committed to this trumpet and to this mouthpiece. Now, a lot of other students would probably be committed to this trumpet and this mouthpiece. But they’d like to try 15 other mouthpieces over here and they might try this bell over here and they would love to see if they could put some new caps or some new blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And they let the minutiae of a better life with newer gear, take them away from their air, their ears, their focus where the sound goes, what they’re supposed to do musically and, and Mr Adams says, don’t do that. Just you, you, you, you got your horn and I’ve got the horn I love and I don’t deviate at all. I’m not really interested in any modern horns. I’m not interested in anything. I just have that and if it’s not working one day because I haven’t been practicing and that’s all Adam’s stuff. He, he, he’s able to simplify the horn and, and get you to do these relatively simple exercises, well, relatively and, and over time, I think he thinks your corners will develop your airstream will develop, your maturation process will develop and you will become a more sturdy, better regal majestic trumpet player. I think that’s probably, I mean, I’m, I’m putting my own thing into it but, and I, as I’ve left college, you know, and gone, gone on to work and, and, and to play and then to be a performer and an artist, I do the routine or I do my own routine. But it’s always coming back to that sense of his teaching, which is kind of like yoga. It’s like you go to the front of the mat every day and do yoga and you do your practice every day. And at the end of the day I go, man, I’m grateful I studied with Mr Adam. There are some kids that have taken the actual Adam process uh like Bob Baca and, and Bob Slack and John Harbaugh and Karl Sievers and, and they’re great teachers for actually learning that, you know, I do kind of more morphed, you know, I do the long tones and the Clarkes and then I move on to other Clarkes and other other stuff and, and, but the principles of, of, of it all lead back to Mr Adam and I’m just, I, I’m the luckiest person to have been able to study with him
[0:20:01] John Snell: uh when we did the tribute podcast a few episodes back. Uh, I mean, most of the podcast was about other than trumpet stuff. Uh, you know, because he was so much more than a trumpet teacher. Uh, how else did he affect you outside of the physics of the trumpet?
[0:20:18] Chris Botti: Well, I, when I first went to, to, to Indiana, I uh studied with another teacher, a different teacher there. And, uh, my very first day all the trumpet students would be on the uh on the third floor. They, they occupied the third floor and drove everyone nuts at Indiana University, you know, just loud, bombastic, crazy stuff. And I, I arrived on the third floor at about 930 in the morning and Bob Slack who uh was a very, is a very great trumpet player that was there a few years older than I was, uh walks out and introduces himself and he goes, hey, what are you here to do? And I said, well, I’m here to practice the trumpet and he goes, it’s 930. And I said, yeah, I’m psyched, you know, he goes, ok, well, we’ve all been here since six and I was like, really? Ok. Well, and it’s sort of like, you know, that positive camp that they had, that would take a kid that wasn’t studying with Mr Adam didn’t put me down, didn’t do anything, said, you know, you should be up here practicing with us at six. So the next morning, bang, I’m up there at six, they’re all up there. We’d practice from basically six on and off until midnight, you know, and I had a few classes which I, I ended up cutting anyhow. Uh and I just practiced all day long and, and then subsequently, I saw all the Adams students getting so much stronger. And when I first got to IU I could just play maybe an A or a B flat on top of the staff, I could play jazz. Everyone thought I was great for jazz, but I could just play a B flat on top of the staff, sort of, sort of, uh, and then I said, I’m gonna go study with Mr Adams. So I went in and, and, uh, and here’s the, all, you know, a Mr Adams sits down in front of me. He’s, ah, young fellow. How are you? And, and he goes, ok, I’ll play a note and you play a note and I’m going ok. Cool. So, he plays a G, and then I play a G and then, you know, he plays, these are long tones and he plays an F sharp and then I play an F sharp and this goes on for whatever, 45 minutes and we play some Clarkes and he goes all right young fellow, I’ll see you next week and he sees me out the door and there’s another guy there and he tells him a bad joke and, and that’s how it works. And, and I thought this is the corniest thing I’ve ever seen. I did, I just, like, walk into Mayberry RFD. Like, I couldn’t figure out what was, and then week goes by and the same thing happens the next week I’m going, is this just like a and then, huh? I just noticed that everything just sort of locks in. Like, it’s the simplicity. It’s the routine, literally the routine that you’re doing every day. It’s the camaraderie. It’s the focus and you’re not scattering yourself out with a whole bunch of different things. You’re focusing basically on a primary of like 10 or 15 different exercises spread around and in different registers with different kind of, but with the airstream flowing the same way and all of a sudden you become better. And if you hear any great jazz educators, like, like Kenny Warner, the great jazz piano player, he’ll say, you know, if you practice 100 things, you’re not going to be nearly as successful as if you practice 12 things or five things that are short that your memory can retain that you will turn into a routine and it becomes muscle memory. The most important thing is to have your air and your muscles become muscle memory and that takes months and months and months. You don’t get muscle memory overnight. It’s not like studying for a test. And so Adam is able to do that. He doesn’t comment much. He doesn’t say Chris your corners are crap. You know, you don’t have any, like, you know, any, any muscular there. He just, you follow me, I’ll follow you, you follow me, I mean, I’ll follow, you know what I’m saying? We’re back and forth and over four or five months, all of a sudden you become stronger and, and it, and it works. It’s just, and the simplest stuff works and you and I start looking at all the other, other trumpet players, like with like the, the mouthpiece things and they’re analyzing what their chops do. And Mr Adam never said that stuff to me. He never said your tongue will do this and he said, listen to the sound and copy me and your body will copy and it’s a, he’s brilliant, long winded response.
[0:24:27] John Snell: Would you, would you trade off with um with the other students while you were there?
[0:24:32] Chris Botti: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And, and I, what I would do is I would um play, it was tough for me because I would play all the, and, and the, and the Adams students play quite a bit louder than I did at the time. I mean, man, they’d start me, I was there when Greg Wing was there and I mean, they, they would start out playing the middle games, be like, whoa. And I couldn’t really keep up. I was a smaller guy and, and uh um but, but they, they were really, really friendly and people like John Harbaugh and Bob Slack, and they’d always invite me to like, trade off and then we’d trade off and then they’d inspire you. And so then when six o’clock would roll around and we eat dinner and then, then it would come time for me to like, work on jazz. And so I’d go up to the fourth floor of the music school where all the jazz guys were hanging out and it was tough because, you know, when you’re beating yourself up playing Arban and Clarkes and, and, uh, uh, I don’t know, Schlossberg and all that stuff. And then you have to go play jazz and you have to be real supple and kind of maybe not quite as accurate and you want to be like, you know, your idols were KD or Lee Morgan at the time and, and Clifford and, and so you need to be in that vein. You’d have like the stiffness and then you’d try to go up and make it loose and then the next day you’d be all stiff again and you make it loose and, but over time, um it all be sort of becomes one and now, now I can warm up doing all the stuff for a couple of hours, which I was just playing now a little bit and then we’ll go hit the show tonight and it works. It’s just great.
[0:26:04] John Snell: Uh, you mentioned a couple of names who, who are you listening to at this, at this point? Who are your jazz influences?
[0:26:09] Chris Botti: Um Well, I was an idyllic, uh a college kid so I listened, I listen to Miles Davis for sure, always. Uh But I mean, I love all the, the fantastic trumpet players that get around the horn. I love Freddie. I love Lee Morgan. I love Clifford. I love uh Louie. I love Wynton. I think he’s fantastic. Um, I mean, there’s a lot, there’s so many good ones. Uh, I Chet Baker is great. Um, I’ve liked him at different points in my career and then there’s a lot of great ones were,
[0:26:42] John Snell: uh, did you model your sound or develop your sound based on any of those in particular or just did you?
[0:26:49] Chris Botti: Um, there’s aspects of certainly Miles I have but, I mean, maybe my sound production is a little more accurate and a little more. I, I like the, I love a lot of the Bel Canto style playing of, of classical music, like the way Maurice Andre plays, even though I would never want to play a classical recital or anything like that. I, I just love some of the phrasing and stuff like that and, and my career has been a little mishmash. You know, I’ve worked in lots of different settings and situations with different people and I think it’s the, it’s the way that it’s all kind of come together and been spewed out by what I wanna do. That’s probably given me the career I have.
[0:27:32] John Snell: Uh, you spent a summer studying with Woody Shaw at one point? Can you talk a little bit about that? What you learned from him?
[0:27:39] Chris Botti: Well, my mom again, you know, said, you know, there’s this thing called the National Endowment for the Arts and they have grants, Chris. And I’m like, oh, ok, then all you need to do is send in a little letter that says you’d like to, um maybe like, like you could almost pick what you want and they would give you $5000. I mean, $5000 in 1981 to a kid that had no money was a big deal. So my first one was, as I wanted to study with George Coleman, the great tenor saxophone player from Miles Davis’ band. And they sent back and I sent it in a demo tape and they sent back and said, ok, so I called up George Coleman. I was 20 or 19 or something like that. And he said this is weird. But sure, you know, and I had to prompt me. Most of the money went to him. Right? And so I got a little rental, a little sublet in New York. And I spent the summer there and it was, it was life changing. It was incredible. And I went down and study with George and then the next year I thought I’d love to do the same thing with Woody and that’s what I did and, and I, um, I learned quite a bit from Woody in both musical and nonmusical things. Uh, and it was interesting, um, it was very, very esoteric and he was working more with like shapes. He would do a lot of like, uh up in the, starting up in the upper register and just go up a minor third, down a minor third in chromatics, da da, da, da, da, da, da, like that, that sort of thing. And fourth and do different scales and articulations. And it, it certainly got me to think and I was at that time, like I said, very idealistic and thought, wow, that’s cool. You know, and um I think Woody is certainly one of the most underappreciated trumpet players of our, of jazz, you know, and certainly he was great. He was really very, very nice and everyone was nice and that, I don’t know if they still have that uh National Endowments program, but uh and you have to search for it, but I would recommend a young person to check it out.
[0:29:36] John Snell: Now, you, excuse me, you left Indiana to go out on the road. Yeah,
[0:29:43] Chris Botti: I, I had um I went three years and three months and then I got an offer to uh to simultaneously start two gigs. So the first one was uh and it was the big Frank Sinatra two week come out of his um L A is My Lady record in Hollywood at the Universal Amphitheater. And um, and it was the Buddy Rich brass section with Frank Sinatra’s rhythm section to accompany Frank. And then the opening act was gonna be Buddy Rich again with the Buddy Rich brass section and saxophones and all that stuff. So then it was going to be two months of that, two weeks of that. And then it was time for me to join Buddy’s band and we were gonna go out into the world and do Buddy Rich. So I did Sinatra and it was magical. I mean, this, it was the Nelson Riddle orchestra, the strings and it was like, ah, you know, and it was very, very posh and he’d walk out and you’d see all the stars of the day, Quincy and Angie Dickinson and all that stuff. And then it was time to like, leave and go do Buddy’s band I just, I mean, I just crashed, I couldn’t, I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t liked by Buddy at all. Um, and subsequently, we, we sort of made our way around, around the country a couple of times. Maybe I lasted like, six weeks or something. And, uh, and we were in Terre Haute, Indiana and I was, we were playing a song called Time Check, which was like a very, very difficult song, had some figure, like, and it was a stop time and it was like, whatever, 4.5, beats 4.5. And then you have to come in. I don’t know. So I went, and then I came in like a beat early all by myself. And like, Buddy looked over at me and I said, OK, I know I’m already on because I was idealistic. I wanted to play my solos and Buddy’s band more like Woody Shaw because I’d been studying with Woody blah, blah, blah. And he wanted straight up Bix Beiderbecke, Harry James. He wanted the real, like when he’s playing the four on the floor, he went, he wanted that. I wasn’t giving him that. So when he shot me that look, I literally, I was in Terre Haute Indiana, which is close to Bloomington and I went up to him and, uh, and just said I quit. I mean, I knew I was gonna get fired. And the one great thing that it did teach me was a, if I ever, ever, ever had a band, I never ever want to treat musicians like he did. And I never, ever want to play in a big band again. Those are the two things you taught me. And, uh, and I’m very grateful for that.
[0:32:26] John Snell: Did you ever play in a big band again?
[0:32:28] Chris Botti: I don’t think so. I mean, maybe I needed money one time and I, I might have, but I mean, I never really sought it out. Um, uh, I just, maybe I, I subbed once or twice in Maria Schneider’s band. She doesn’t count. She’s lovely. She’s really,really lovely.
[0:32:42] John Snell: So, you do your six weeks on buddy’s band? You’re in Indiana. Where do you go next?
[0:32:47] Chris Botti: Um, I stayed with, um, my girlfriend for a couple of months until it’s time for her to graduate and then together, she and I packed up my Volkswagen and we moved to New York together and, uh, yeah, um, I, we moved in on July the first into a sublet on the Upper West side and then on July the second I auditioned, I found out about this gig auditioning for the, the band at the Playboy Club. In 1980. It would have been 1984. They were resurrecting the Playboy Club, which probably wasn’t that great of an idea. They wanted to have this band. They had a lot of money and it turns out that now in hindsight, the band was incredible. I mean, it had like, well, Ken Smith was playing trumpet, but it had Andy Snitzer on saxophone who’s gone on with like Paul Simon and the Rolling Stones. Mike Davis, who’s gone on with the Rolling Stones and so many, many different other people, Rob Mathis has done work with like everyone under the sun from like arranging and playing keyboards. Uh And they would have lots of different musicians coming down like solo and Chuck Mangione would come down. It was really, really cool. Um It lasted for about a year. But it, it kept me in New York in the scene. You know, it really kinda, it, it did a good job for me. I, I enjoyed, it, enjoyed it. I wasn’t unemployed. I mean, although I was, but I wasn’t,
[0:34:11] John Snell: uh, did you have any aspirations at that point to start your own group or, or do your own thing or were you mostly just freelancing?
[0:34:16] Chris Botti: I was bebopping as much as I could when I moved to New York, it was like kind of the, the, the first two years of the explosion that Wynton Marsalis had and along the same lines of Buddy, like I learned a lot from what I didn’t want to do by Buddy. I think looking back at my career, I’ve learned my biggest lessons by what I don’t want to do than necessarily what I wanna do. Uh I inherently thought to myself, if Wynton is setting the glass ceiling here, then nobody is going to be able to, to, to chase that because what you’re gonna have is you’re gonna have a lot of his people that he really has influenced and there’s scads of them like Terrence and Nicholas and I mean, like a lot of, a lot of, great, great, great, great guys, but neither one of those guys and, and a whole litany of everyone else is going to puncture that glass ceiling. So I kind of thought to myself. Well, I’m gonna move as far away from doing an absolute pure, straight ahead jazz album I could have, but it wouldn’t have gotten me at all any recognition because of what was going on at that time. So I waited, you know, and I started doing studio work. Um I did a lot of other, like, crappy gigs too. Um, but I, but I became sort of known as the young hotshot guy that they use in the studios that served me so well because Paul Simon, uh, would pick his musicians from the studios, always did with the Brecker Brothers and so many different people. Steve Gadd, Richard T and I joined Paul’s band when I was 28. And, um, and I did like a two year and a half, two year world tour and that kind of for the first time knocked me into this realization that I loved touring and there’s a whole thing about it. I mean, and I’ve seen, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen musicians kind of derail themselves because they cannot get their act together on the road. It’s like primary if I can give any advice to a young person. When you get a gig on the road, don’t be nine hours late to sound check, you know, don’t do this, don’t do that, make your flight carry your passport, whatever the like the most simple things are, musicians will screw it up and then therefore they will lose the biggest gigs of the thing, they’ll pop off and say the wrong thing. They’ll be sullen and sulking around when they shouldn’t be. I mean, everything you learn a lot about people when you go on the road, you know, it’s one thing to see them in class, but when you actually got to catch a flight and people are whatever, not in the right mood, sick, hung over, whatever the deal is. That’s when you really learn how someone is. And I learned a ton about that and a ton about how to act. Um And, and that’s what I did. I was my and, and the other thing is I got to stand next to Michael Brecker for two years, you know, uh and learn about life and about practicing about everything. And we both went to Indiana University. So we had something in common and that was a real big, a real big experience for me.
[0:37:22] John Snell: Well, can you talk a little bit about that? What you learned from Michael? I mean, what, what did you, that you needed to practice more or like when you’re on the road? What?
[0:37:30] Chris Botti: Um I mean, nobody is as much of a gentleman as Michael, but he was a great role model for that. He was a gentle, kind, humbled to a fault sometimes. Um And yet recognize the importance of again the routine and the practicing. Um And that two year tour, I probably heard him practicing like maybe five or six different licks. That’s it over and over and over in every key and every style and every level, you know, like, but not a lot of content, you know, but he has endless content, but he was literally like just bringing it down to its real core. Um But as a person and it is supportive of me, supportive of me, you know, me being the just the whipper snapper at the time, you know, everyone was a lot older than me and Gadd was 50 at the time and I was 28 you know, and it’s just, uh, they were all just so wonderful. Um And, uh I just, I got, I got a lot, I would go running every morning with Steve Gadd and so I got a whole different perspective. He’s a little bit more volatile than Michael. Um uh and, uh, and it was great. I mean, I just, I look back at those days with a lot of fondness and, um, I got off the road with that and I would, I would have been 30 one. and then I saved up some money and so I decided, ok, now’s the time I’m gonna try to do a demo tape and then that demo tape takes about a year to put together. Had Michael come play on it and stuff like that and, and now you gotta go get, now you have a demo tape. Now you gotta go, go get a record deal and that takes another year to just get the deal. The lawyers, the, you gotta get someone impressed upon you all that sort of stuff. Um, and you do that and then you gotta, then, then, then the race begins and it’s a long, long race. I did four records on Verve Records. I got signed to Verve Records. I did four records on that label. Um, and I was thinking that I was doing good, you know, it was all really, really happening. And um I was doing a yoga class, uh this would have been 1998 7, maybe eight. And um I come out of the yoga class and I found out that Frank Sinatra had passed away. So I had been introduced to Sting for a while and I just thought this is so weird but what the hell I just called his assistant and I said this is random, but I’ve always wanted to do a Frank Sinatra record uh song on one of my albums and I’d like to know if Sting would like to guest on it on my album. Um Is that possible? And she goes, oh, well, let me call you tomorrow. So she calls back the next day and she goes sure if you’ll fly to Italy and play on his record and I’m thinking, well, who got the better end of that deal? You know?
[0:40:23] John Snell: So you said you had, you met Sting before
[0:40:26] Chris Botti: Yeah. Yeah, we’d done a couple of his Rainforest Benefits, but I was just kind of like a hired gun. Uh, you know. Hi, how are you? Great. Ok. Well, here’s what we’re gonna do. It’s not like we become buddies, you know. Um, so in, um, late 90 so I went to Italy and we, uh, recorded this version, uh, of, of two things on his album, uh, um, Brand New Day and he recorded in the wee small hours of the morning and we took long walks in his, uh fantastically fabulous uh, villa in, uh, in Italy. And it was surreal. It was a very interesting kind of, huh? You know. Wow. Ok. This is different. Um And then a few months later, I, I found myself in England, um working with John Berry, the famous film composer. We were doing uh a concert at Royal Albert Hall and Sting rang me up, heard about it and rang me up and said, Chris, meet me at the Dorchester Hotel. The Dorchester Hotel is a very famous, um landmark hotel, right on Hyde Park. And, and it’s got a very famous bar in it. And so he goes meet me at the bar, the Dorchester. Ok. And so I didn’t know I like walk in and that is really posh and in comes Sting and he sits down and, um, he goes, listen, I have a tour coming up and I have had a lot of success in my career, letting an instrumentalist run commentary through my gig. And he goes, I believe in you as a star as I believed in Wynton Branford Marsalis. And I’d like you to leave your career. And if you do that, I will single handedly break the sound of your trumpet to the rest of the world. And most of them don’t know about jazz and, and if you trust me on this, uh I’ll change your life and I trusted him. So I went back and I called my manager and I said, I’m gonna do this gig. And the first thing that happened was Verve records dropped me because they thought I wasn’t committed to my own career. So I go out and start this tour. Oh, and the other thing I said, well, I live in L A. Well, what am I supposed to do? And Sting goes, my advice to you is put all your stuff in storage because we ain’t coming back for a long time. So I joined in 1999 August and my last official gig with him like as a side man in his band was September 11th, 2001. And, um, and it’s, I learned in that 2.5 years, I learned everything how to get a tour manager, how to re relate to a tour manager, how the manager relates to a tour manager, how the band lands in a hotel does what they mean? E every little nuance. I thought I learned it with Paul Simon but I learned it all from the Sting crew. How to keep it lean, how to do this, how to do that. What you’re supposed to do in the sound check. There’s a whole hierarchy to it that, that makes it. So you’re not just literally falling off the rails. I mean, I see these other bands, you know, there’s the, the, the, the, the, the, the band members are like straggling around the airport. They don’t know what the hell is going on because they have a terrible tour manager, whatever it is. And so I modeled myself after in so many ways that organization staying in his tour manager, Billy Francis, who’s a very famous uh tour manager and little by little. Uh I, then I got another record deal on Columbia Records and, and, and made that record in, in the one month break that we had in the middle of the Sting tour. I, I shoved a studio into a house in L A and used a bunch of the guys from Sting’s group and we just did this record called Night Sessions like quickly. Um And then I thought, OK, this is fantastic, you know. Um And so I had the time of my life, it was, um we became much, much more than boss, you know, he became my brother, my bigger brother, you know. Um And so I’m getting ready for the next tour, which would have been 2004. And Sting came up to me and he’s kind of, he looks bummed, you know, and he goes, Chris, I got good news and bad news. Bad news is, is I’m firing you from my band. And the good news is I’m going to promote you to opening act. Now, there’s a financial situation for that. You don’t make any money as opening act. He goes. but trust me, this is your time. You have to step in the middle of this thing and it’s either yours to do or yours to fail. And that kind of opportunity to walk out in front of his audience every night. And just for instance, you know, we played four nights at the Beacon Theater in New York. I walk out and play someone’s in the audience. They go, gee my friend Oprah would love this guy. Two weeks later we’re in Europe. Get a phone call. I gotta go to Sting and say Sting. Oprah wants me on her show like next week he goes, go, I’ll get someone else, you know. So I go to Oprah, the next thing she goes bang like to the number one on the charts. I mean, all the roads lead back to, to my friendship with Sting. All the PBS specials. It’s easy to get yo, yo man, Steven Tyler and Josh Groban when you know, you have Sting on the show, you know, it’s just all of that stuff goes back to him. Uh The constant learning aspect of it and, you know, we just played the Blue Note in New York, I was saying, and he came down like for five nights and sat in, you know, it’s just, he’s the greatest guy. You know.
[0:45:51] John Snell: Uh we talk a lot about the business and the logistics of, of touring. Uh, can we talk a little bit about the, the trumpet aspect of? I mean, you were playing for huge crowds or you’re on the road and you don’t necessarily know what time zone you’re in or uh things that are out of your control. Can you talk a little bit about how you would manage that? Trumpet wise?
[0:46:11] Chris Botti: I just always, well, two things I think if I look back at my career when I was playing on the streets in New York, like at Christmas time, Christmas carols with Mike Davis and Ken Smith. Uh and we got together $22 each. I thought it won the Academy Award. You know, it’s like you use the naive aspect of a young person to go smooth over all the reality that you’re in. You’re, you’re not doing so well. You know, when I paid my landlord the first time rent, I thought again, I’d won the Academy Award. It felt great. So whether or not it, it worked, I would always just tell myself, ok, maybe I haven’t practiced enough or et cetera. Et cetera. But there’s a gun at your head and you’re gonna go out and you’re just going to play. That means you can’t worry about all this other stuff. It’s time to play, forget about all that stuff. Play. Here’s the horn play and trumpet players get so freaked out, you know, and, and what they do subsequently is they, they try and then they change the mouthpieces and do all that stuff and, and, and again, going back to Mr Adam, you wouldn’t do that. It’s just, just go out and play and it’s, I, I just, I wish I was the trumpet player. I am now that I was 15 years ago in reverse. I should say, I feel like I’m, I’m 1000% better than I was when I was 2500% better than I was when I was 40. You know, I, I just feel like it’s just gotten better and better and better and better every year. Which that’s probably the thing I’m most proud of success. All that other stuff is one thing, but to know that my trumpet playing tonight is light years ahead of the way it was in 1999 you know, and, um and, and that’s just from constantly working and working and working at it.
[0:48:16] John Snell: Uh So over your career so far you’ve had, what was it, 10 or 12 albums that you’ve released?
[0:48:21] Chris Botti: Yeah. Sadly.
[0:48:24] John Snell: Uh where do you, where do you, where do you get your inspiration from, for those, I mean, where’s, where’s your creative inspiration come from?
[0:48:30] Chris Botti: I just try to make albums that I would want to hear. I mean, I love reading like the stuff on Trumpet Herald. You know, because they’re always like, yeah, man, Chris Botti makes the records for the audience wants to hear because he wants to make Bank. Well, that’s not true because, because, because in reality, in reality, the, the honesty factor comes across more than you would think. I think, I think when I see a jazz musician and he goes out and makes an album that he thinks is gonna quote, cross over or quote, get a larger audience. It always backfires. Always. Uh, my whole thing is if you ever see my show, I care deeply about the audience and it’s not a put on and when I go home and listen to albums, it’s not like I’m going home and listening to Ornette Coleman, but I make impressions. It’s, it, I go home and I listen to Sinatra and Jobin or I listen to Keith Jarrett the Melody Night with You, which is the most subdued beautiful record or I listen to Chopin Nocturnes or I listen to like a couple of different Miles records. It, this is what I want and what I want, what I want to listen to in other artists is, is the beautiful stuff. Uh, I mean, there is part of me that recognizes and can respect, you know, uh, the, the angular avant garde stuff. I just have no interest in doing it myself. Um, and I think there’s a large mass population that wants to hear primarily instrumental music or they want to hear beautiful music. And I remember we, uh, we did a concert recently, uh, for the President United States, the, the, um, President Clinton and it was a, uh, a small invitation concert and we were talking afterwards and he goes, Chris, you’re single largest hurdle you have to overcome is that you’re unapologetic about playing beautiful music. All the songs have that same sort of characteristic. It’s not like I’m doing a duet with Andrea Bocelli and then stable mates, right? I have no interest in doing stablemates. Everyone else go do stable mates, go do Nica’s Dream, do your thing. It’s all great, you know. I just, I, it does, it doesn’t move me like that to me. I want to hear the, the trumpet soar. I want it to make, make it tender. I wanna make it heartwarming. I want to make it. Um So trumpet players go holy shit. Uh I, I can’t do that, you know, there, there’s a ma there’s a macho stuff in it. Certainly. When we do the show, the shows are radically different from the records because the shows I wanna be able to like flex my trumpet muscle and have all the other trumpet players go, wow. I couldn’t do that. You know. So that’s a whole another thing. But leaving ego out of it when you make a record, I wanna make a record that people can have on and it makes them go like that. It just makes them take it back and enjoy the music without dumbing the music down without putting a little R and B groove on it. And me playing within 1/5. You know, that, that, that, that thing, I’m not so much of a fond of, um, but the, it’s music that II I wholeheartedly believe in and I’m not out trying to make music to, you know, to, to try to inflate my bank account. It’s just, it, it, it will never happen. People that think like that if there’s a trumpet player listening, you think, oh, I’m gonna make something that I don’t really believe in because you think it’s gonna help your bank account. No, you’re just gonna look like an idiot. You know, it just, it doesn’t come across, it doesn’t read honest, you know, and, um, uh, it, it’s like taking a banker and having him be a drummer. It’s just, you know, you’re better as a banker, wear the Pinstripe suit, go to the bank, be a banker and a dr let a drummer be a drummer. You know, it just, it, it, you gotta find out what makes your own human being. Clock tick and, and then, and then go after that and then, and hopefully you’ll become successful
[0:52:45] John Snell: uh over your career. You did a, a live DVD and some of your albums, you collaborate with a lot of other artists from all different genres. Uh Can you maybe speak about a, a few of them and what you learn from them?
[0:53:01] Chris Botti: When we do shows, we go, people come on and go Chris. You’re so, you’re so, you’re so generous with the audience on stage, with your artist on stage. I was like, let me see here if you take Kind of Blue and you take the total amount of minutes, Miles Davis plays on kind of blue. He’s probably playing about 22% of the time. The rest of the time, there’s some guys named Bill Evans and John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley. The only reason people think that I’m so generous is because I actually, instead of playing and putting my head down and sulking like a lot of jazz musicians do I introduce and I build up all these other musicians and I let them play, I don’t play a solo and then turn it over to a 28 minute saxophone solo. That’s generally what jazz does. I, I’ve gone and seen some jazz shows recently. I’m just, I’m, I’m amazed here they come down, there’s no talking, there’s no interaction with the audience. They, they seem kind of like they don’t care. They play the trumpet player play oftentimes if you’re there to see a trumpet player, he doesn’t even take the first solo. Now, could you imagine like Bono coming out for you? Two, the lights go down, out, comes Bono and then they just focus on the bass player and the bass player takes a solo. It’s, it would never happen that way. And it, it, and, and, and, and part of me kind of goes like, well, why, you know, it are we all too cool school for the room like I, you know, I don’t know where that comes from.
And so you have all these jazz musicians that, that, you know, they haven’t even said anything to the audience and you’re 45 minutes into the set now as a human being watching you’re going to lose connection with that, which to a lot of jazz musicians, they don’t care, which is fine, which is honest. Now I’m for it, it’s just not my honesty, you know. And um and so I want to be able to in the same way Miles breaks up his Kind of Blue album with Cannonball Adderly and Bill Evans. Instead of having a saxophone player, I have singers or I have a violinist. So it gives the audience some other depth of field that they can focus on. And then Sting always used to tell me like Chris don’t play the solo back there, walk up to the uh to the very front with me and I’m gonna step back and it, the, the, the brighter your star shines who looks good from this, you look good and Sting goes and I look good and this is what I want, I want my band to all be, you know, warriors like incredible artists that people want to buy their records. People would love to go see their shows.
And in popular music today, it’s not that way. You know, you see all these kids come up and they, they go thank you. And they don’t, they don’t say anything and there’s an awkward pause and then you hear the drummer go click, click and you’re, I’m falling asleep. Click, click. And then they played another song. It’s all on headphones to track by the way. And then they get to the, and, and they, they don’t care who’s, what’s going on behind them. As long as the dancers are. Ok. The dancers, I, I it, it, it, then, then, then, then they think they have a show. But when I grew up, when I grew up, when I was in college, you had acts like uh uh Paul Simon, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Madonna. They had great sidemen like world class, uh um uh the, the Eagles. Um, they, they had World Tom Petty. They, they had all, they paid money, they cared who would play drums for them. They cared. Sonny Rollins used to play with the Rolling Stones. You know, and, and, and so it made music better and now everything’s just become this cookie cutter, uh, the lowest common denominator. How do you look? Are you a good dancer? How’s the light show? So, as my career has gotten bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger, I’ve spent no money on dancers or light show. I spend it on players. I have the best musicians in the world. I have the best special guests in the world and I keep them away from other artists. You know, I mean, I, I don’t want other artists to steal them and take them away. So I take care of them.
[0:57:10] John Snell: uh when you share the stage with someone like Josh Groban or Yo Yo Ma or something. Uh what do you get from their performance?
[0:57:19] Chris Botti: Well, I’m a, I’m a fan of other musicians, you know, like of Streisand or Josh or Yo Yo Ma, I, I want, you know, I like listening to them and also the, you know, as the trumpet leans up against something like me and Barbara, for instance, when we toured together, you know, we’d be on stage right next to each other doing duet after duet, after duet. Now the trumpet doesn’t interfere. Sometimes if you hear a voice and a voice, it gets a little too wordy or the voices don’t line up or you have egos kind. But the trumpet can, it can be its own stand alone instrument in this very regal way or it can tuck under and also lend support and mold together with a singer like Bocelli, we’ve had such success playing together. Um, and, and, and evidence by that or Sting, you know, the same thing. It’s a, it’s, it’s a really unique instrument in, in that way and it works great with singers.
[0:58:16] John Snell: Now over your career, the music industry has changed quite a bit. Uh Can you talk a little bit about where it’s going in terms of, let’s say someone who’s in college now listens to you and wants to do what you wanna do. How would you advise them? What do they need to learn? Considering state of the music business today?
[0:58:37] Chris Botti: I wish I knew the answer to that. Honestly, I, I would be lying. I would be not lying. I would be just kind of, I’m a fish out of water. I don’t know what the future entails. And I think by the time it gets solidified, my career will be over. I think we’re in a flux here that’s gonna last 15, 20 30 years. I don’t really know how that is. I would say that if you’re a young person, you should find the people that, that make your heart tick and that who you admire and go see them and go up and say hello to them. I have a couple of my closest friends in L A. There’s a trumpet player, Gabriel Johnson who lives down there who came to me at Schooners in Boston and said, hey, can I get a lesson with you now? He’s like my closest buddy. You know, it’s like you, you’d be very, very surprised how a approachable and be nice and, and c not like hiding the, you know, secrets to the crypt. I mean, you know, you, I, I have no trouble like telling people what I do or what I practice and, yeah, yeah, I, I, how that manifests itself in the real world with the suit and tie people that need to make an album or, or what I will say this, that your number one currency as a, as a, as a young person is what happens on that stage. So ultimately, because you probably won’t have your own solo show, you need to impress the person next to you. That means in a practice room. That means in a recital hall. That means in a club that means if you sit in somewhere how, how you know people talk, you know, and, and, and the next day someone’s gonna go, oh my God. I heard this, somebody playing the trumpet and they’re fantastic. If you got that going, then you have a shot at, at having a career. Now, whether you’re gonna have an solo artist career, I don’t know, man. That’s a, that’s a real, a real, I mean, like I think that for my own self, you know, because, because perhaps, maybe I’m lucky enough to have a, my sound is unique enough to have a fingerprint so people can identify it. And there’s so many talented trumpet players. I mean, that, you know, it’s like that movie closing doors. What if I had just gotten on this subway at this time? I would be, you know, I would be in Arkansas somewhere. I don’t know. You know, it’s just, uh, you just never know. But, but, but ultimately, you can’t get away from the fact that young people should be emulating the people they like and, and finding out how they did it
[1:01:09] John Snell: uh since you brought up, I, I wanted to ask you this earlier, uh in terms of developing your tone, how would you suggest a player do that? I mean, did you have a concept of what you wanted in your mind or ho how did you get your unique sound?
[1:01:24] Chris Botti: OK. I think it’s changed over, over many years. But I mean, there, there’s a phrasing thing. There’s a, there’s a jazz phrasing thing which I don’t really cater to and then there’s how singers singing and that’s what I really love. Now, we’re not talking about like, if you’re blowing through changes, then you gotta like BB, there’s time. But when people play a melody, ba, ba ba da da, I mean, so many, that’s a bad example in the wrong tempo. But you know what I’m saying? So many jazz musicians play a melody in time and for me personally, it just sounds like the corniest thing I’ve ever heard. I mean, I’m going and, and some of them are very, very well known jazz musicians, you know it, but when you listen to Streisand sing and having been on stage with her so many times, um, I mean, they’re just like, they lean back or they, or they come running right up to the thing and then, like, go up there. So it’s like this whole, like, it’s like ballet. It’s like a beautiful sort of the, the phrasing is, is just sort of so unique and they, and they throw away the, they throw, sometimes they throw away things and sometimes they elongate things and some things are a whisper. And so it’s, that thing is so paramount to me.
So when I hear a young person play a melody, it is much more telling to me than if I hear a young person, like, kind of like, get through Confirmation. I, I it, I wanna hear him play when it’s really, really wide open and the chords are moving slow and you have to play a melody and you have to like, bring someone in and, and make them stop and think about everything and, and listen to you and that’s a lot harder. It’s so much easier said than done.
I’ve seen just so many great players. I’ve seen famous players kind of like people, they play the melody and everyone just kind of like they just start talking or if you go on YouTube and you hear a melody being played by whomever xyz and then you hear talking in the background, then you know, something, you know, you gotta go to the shows where people play when Yo Yo Ma’s playing, no one’s talking, they’re not talking, you know, and, and, and that’s, that’s a real important thing. And I, I wish more young people would find their own phrasing, find their own sound and, and, and sounds always, I mean, I’m always working on my sound all day long. The articulation and how, and how you get from one note to one note without sounding like a trumpet player, you know, and then, yeah, it’s a, it’s a daily thing and then you know what you, what kind of microphone you use, what kind of reverb you use? What kind of blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, you know, all those things are very, very important, you know, and the most famous jazz album of all time Kind of Blue. They, I mean, there is some magic going on. Do you know about this album? Do you know they would take the piano and they would mic it and then they would put the microphone up, they would put a, they would put it going through a speaker and they put it two floors up in a, in a in a, in a stairwell then drop a microphone down and rerecord it. So you’re hearing Bill Evans play, but you’re not just hearing like if you go to a modern day piano record, you hear, if you listen to Kind of Blue, he just sounds like, whoa, what’s going on? It’s like, it’s like this, this gauze, this haze. It’s like looking at the piano through this pop screen here and, and, and it really is cool and Miles is trumpet. It’s just, there’s all this space on the record and they didn’t just do it by accident. They thought about that stuff and that is why I mean mom and pop at home aren’t thinking like, gee honey on the, on the f minor court, he really played a nice Pentatonic. They’re not doing that. They think the sound of the record sounds beautiful and that same person isn’t rushing out to buy live at the Plugged Nickel because that record is just the facts, man. They’re just, you know, going crazy. So they, so the records that, that people care about that, that, that, that sonically feel beautiful and the phrasing is great and, and they put some thought into it is what I try to emulate and do like my Impressions record. I’ve thought a lot about it and we put a hell of a lot of work into like, you know, what kind of microphones, the placement, the reverb chambers. Like what, how everything feels the recording of the orchestra. So it, in total totality has this, this fabric to it. Sorry. My answers are so long.
[1:06:25] John Snell: Oh, it’s great. So many, so many lessons. Um In fact, the Impressions that starts with the, the, the prelude number 20. I, I thought it was a classical album. First time I heard it uh of the opening of that. It’s just absolutely gorgeous, but exactly what you’re talking about. Um, Now I’d like to just finish up with a few short questions. Are we, what do you, has your listening changed through the years? Do you still listen to the same classic guys or listening to newer players? Now?
[1:06:55] Chris Botti: Um I find myself trolling the internet. Um And most of the times I’m looking at Wynton Marsalis videos, not necessarily like, I mean, I’m here we go. The 22 parts of the train track when I’m practicing a lot of the times I’m totally geeking out on, you know, I want to see the angle of, I want to see someone’s chops. I want to see like how someone holds a horn. I’ve changed my horn holding. I used to for 80% of my career. I used to hold my horn like this and then I switched to this because I saw Wynton play and, and it really hurt my wrist like for a long time because it was so used to being like this and now it’s like this and, but I’m gonna, I’m gonna stick with it and it’s probably added at least 1/5 on my register.
[1:07:50] John Snell:You’re kidding?
[1:07:55] Chris Botti:I mean, I’m not kidding. I just blew me away. So, before I used to, it was like a pistol group.
[1:07:59] John Snell: I knew we should have done a video video interview for
[1:08:07] Chris Botti: Formany years. But check out when you’re playing right. You gotta look at the horn.
[1:08:14] John Snell: Yeah. Changes the pressure on your chops.
[1:08:17] Chris Botti: It just turns it up just ever put it here. No, here.
[1:08:23] John Snell: Interesting and, and
[1:08:24] Chris Botti: it’s just, and it’s got all this, the lock now. It’s just like iron lockdown, everything’s back and I’m there and, and I got that from just like, checking out when, I mean, I like, you know, I’ll find out, you know, if I’m Nick Payton or whatever the trumpet players that I like or Terrence and something like that and I’ll just find out live recordings of them and I, whatever, I’ll just like, I’ll, I’ll watch like the way that they hold their horn or the mechanics of it or how they take a breath and even if it’s some, or, well lately I’ve been like, just listening to tons of master classes, there’s just like lots of lots and even if it’s someone that you don’t even know who it is, you might pick up something, just some little articulation groove or how they like some little thing that they practice or, or, or, or I bought like the new Arturo Sandoval thing and I sit in my hotel room and like, I’m, I’m a fan man. I I really like, um I really love people that are great trumpet players and um and uh or Alison Balsom, you know, and I’ll check out, you know, like the great classical musicians and, and uh and I, I wanna, you know, I wanna hear, I wanna see, I wanna see where this thumb goes and this is a big bone of contention, you know, like, because, because Adam, because Adam, you know, does it here and Wynton is a freak of nature and he does it here. And now Wynton started to hold his horn like this too. So I, I don’t know what to think, but at least I got this from him. So this is working. So, but
[1:09:53] John Snell: uh but so you listen to a lot of trumpet players.
[1:09:55] Chris Botti: I, that’s what I spend when I’m practicing, I’ll go on youtube and, and, and, and check out a lot of trumpet players. But when I’m, when I’m just listening to music, I never listen to trumpet players. I listen to Sinatra, I listen to Keith Jarrett. Um I listen to Coldplay, you know, I listen to that, that sort of stuff to, to get me away from because I view trumpet playing as like, I’m, I’m here to learn something, you know, I’m here to like to, to, to try to get myself better, you know, and I wanna try to, to, to get more content and more like, you know, I, I’m a big, big fan of, um, I’m a really big fan of Kenny Warner, uh uh his jazz uh series that he has out and how to, how to learn how to play jazz. And Hal Galper has done some beautiful master classes as well. But if you get a chance to see the Kenny Warner uh master classes where he just talks about what it’s like to become a professional musician. He’s probably broke it down. He’s, he’s probably the most deepak chopra of someone that I’ve seen. That is actually the, what it really is to, to be a performer and to be uh to, to be honest and, and to find what he calls your inner urge. And um and, and it’s b it’s beautiful. It’s beautifully well put and uh and I, I love that stuff. I’m a big, I’m a big fan of all that stuff. And I, and I, I think Wynton does a fantastic job of it. And uh yeah,
[1:11:21] John Snell: so now my last question and I it’s kind of a silly question now because we have a book’s worth of advice that you’ve given so far. Uh But I always ask this, if you could pick out one piece of advice to leave our listeners, aspiring young triple players uh to leave them, what would it be?
[1:11:40] Chris Botti: I didn’t do it. I mean, you know, there’s always like the, there’s always this, the more stark things that you can say and then everyone says, follow your passion, blah, blah, blah. And I think that your, your, your, your life is defined by the priorities you set. And I think that if I look at my life, I really don’t have much. I mean, it’s very difficult to have a relationship. I don’t really live anywhere. Like I said, I live in hotels and I’m committed to this instrument. And I think it’s one thing for a kid to say, hey, I’d love to have a, a career like Chris Botti have whatever money or success or blah, blah, blah and be able to be recognized. But it’s another thing to say to a kid. Well, you have to give up all the things that you might want a dog or can’t plant. You know, you have to move away from your family. You have to starve, you have to do Xy and Z and you still might not have a career like Chris’s. Then what, how do you saddle up the energy to then do that and get to that naive place where you’re, you’re not worried about that and you can still persevere to play music and I don’t know what the, I don’t know what the answer is because there’s a lot of cliches, everyone can dream, you know, blah, blah, blah. We said all that. But, but it’s, it’s it’s really like daily what you do with your priorities, how you, you know, do that, like, and, and a lot of it is like, where do you live? You know, I if you’re a fantastic trumpet player and you live in Indianapolis, well, then you’re probably not gonna be a professional trumpet player that people know about. You might be a fantastic trumpet player that lives in Indianapolis. So there’s that, and then if you have like three kids and a family you wanna stay home with and you’re probably not gonna be a road musician, probably. But you might be, you know, so there’s all these sort of things that it’s hard for me to like, you know, just say, you know, anyone can do it, follow your dream, never give up. OK, well, everyone says that Jay Z says that, you know, like I’m all down for that, but I just think it gets a lot more complicated than that. When you throw the trumpet into the mix, it just is, is much more, it’s a daunting daunting daunting thing. And I congratulate anyone that that is, is courageous enough to pick up an instrument like this and to want to go out and play. It’s just a, it’s a spectacular thing, but it is a roll of the dice that you have to be in your gut. So sure of at the expense of everything. And if you can get to that point and you can rationalize that, then you’re ready to begin in the batter’s box and that’s really what it is.
[1:14:32] John Snell: Well, if you ever have a career outside of playing, I hope you get into teaching because, um, I mean, the stuff you’ve just passed on this, this time is just amazing. So and well, thank you. Thank you for giving up your time today. We got, got two shows tonight and a couple more tomorrow. And
[1:14:47] Chris Botti: do you have any questions or anything? Do you have any questions?
[1:14:50] John Snell: Anybody else? Well, thank you, Chris. I appreciate it.
Now, I know this episode is probably running long already, but I’d like to share my personal experience with Chris. This interview was recorded about a month ago from when I’m recording my part of this podcast and I’m still processing what Chris had to say. I can honestly tell you I left that interview, a different person. Uh My wife was with me in his hotel room and Preston, of course, my audio engineer, uh and when we left his room, we got into the hotel and we were just, we were speechless. We were silent. Uh I, it was just an amazing, amazing experience sitting in the room of Chris listening to him talk. Uh and I have to admit something. I’m, I’m ashamed to say that before meeting Chris and he did the uh Bill Adam tribute episode 15 podcast that I did. It was wonderful to talk with and I knew something. I, I didn’t really know Chris before that at all. And probably like many Trump of players and people out there, I grouped them as a kind of a, as a smooth jazz artist, you know, with, like, with Kenny G, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Just not my cup of tea. I figured he was a good enough player to get where he was. But, you know, I thought his commercial success was because he made music that other people liked. But boy, how wrong I was. Uh I, I really, we had tickets to his concert after the interview and it was easily hands down the best concert I’ve ever been to in my life. His command of the trumpet, his musicality, his, his all star band. I mean, anyone, any member of his band could have been headlining that night, the pacing of the show, the interaction with the audience. It was incredible. Absolutely incredible. And it wasn’t just me many of the season we were in San Francisco. I mean, they know jazz up there and many of the seasoned jazz fans that were leaving that were sitting around me were saying the same things, man. This is the best concert I’ve ever been to. I can’t wait to see him again. And same thing is true with me. I’m gonna go down hopefully in April before we head off to Australia and see Chris closer to town here in uh in Riverside. So if that weren’t enough, uh I talked with some of the staff at the venue we were playing at and they said Chris and the band were the easiest group to work with. And after hearing what Chris had to say in the interview, it’s obvious none of this is by accident. Chris works hard. He doesn’t ignore in the trumpet. He knows the business side of things and just the nicest guy in the world. So Chris, thank you for what you do and thank you so much for sharing your insights with me and of course, the listeners so you’re ignorant like me or like I was go out and check out Chris Botti if he comes to town near you, which he most likely will. He’s on, on the road most of the year. Uh Just you’re not gonna be disappointed. I promise you there’s something in that show for everybody and uh and he plays the heck out of the trumpet and I mean that I was just blown away so you can learn more about Chris and check out his tour dates online at his website Chris botti dot com. And I’d love to hear what you thought about what Chris had to say. Add to the conversation, you can post a comment on the show notes at Bob Reeves dot com forward slash 24. Next episode in April, we will have the most recorded trumpet player of all time and I’m talking about none other than Chuck Finley. He sat down with me recently and talked about his long career, what the days were like when he was doing four or five sessions a day, seven days a week, uh his time on the Tonight show, what he’s up to today. So check tune in next month for that. And I know we do have some orchestral fans out there and we’ve had quite a run of commercial and jazz players and I haven’t forgotten about you. We are working on some great, great orchestral trumpet players coming in. Uh Tom Stevens retired L A film principal and solo recording artist. He will be coming up in the near future as well as Michael Sachs, principal trumpet of Cleveland. So you will have those look to look forward to in the near near future. So stay tuned, subscribe to itunes and of course, thank you for listening and please share your thoughts online at Bob Reeves dot com forward slash 24. And I would be remiss without mentioning that it would be great if you could leave us a five star review on itunes, go to Bob Reeves dot com forward slash itunes or if you happen to be in the itunes software already, you could just click and write us a review and give us those five stars to help us stay visible in the trumpet community. Well, two years of podcasts are in the books. Thank you again. For listening and we will see you next episode with Chuck Finley. Now let’s go out and make some music.