On Jan. 17, Grammy award-winning trumpet player Chris Botti entertained a full house at the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Knight Concert Hall. It was on that very stage exactly 10 years ago that Botti first embarked on a career-changing tour accompanying Sting as an unknown trumpet player.
The atmosphere at the concert was festive, with the whole event feeling like a celebration. Botti defies the traditionally quiet role of the instrumentalist with youthful zest. From the very first song, when he squatted low as if to dance to the high note, he made it clear this concert would be no lullaby affair. He hopped off stage to join the audience, tapped his toes to the tune and performed imitations like a comedian. In response, the audience laughed, danced and snapped to the beat.
Botti explained that Miles Davis, who he considers the greatest jazz player of all time, was the best because he surrounded himself with the best.
“He was a talent scout,” Botti explained, leaving the audience to catch on that he himself is following the model, as his violinist and singer are young, rising musicians.
The fact that he so eagerly shared the spotlight with the other members of his band confirmed that he is a star. In between songs, he told anecdotes of how he met and recruited each of his musicians. Any of them on their own could have made a concert, each in an entirely different style – Brazilian guitarist Leonardo Armuedo in bossa nova, or Geoffrey Keezer in jazz – and yet the fact that they can all shine without overstepping each other confirms the magical dynamism the group shares.
The band displayed its ability to transcend a single genre, shifting seamlessly from sweeping, orchestra-like symphonies such as crowd-favorite “Cinema Paradiso” to jazzy improvised tunes, such as “The Very Thought of You”.
At one point, Botti gave violinist Caroline Campbell center stage so she could showcase her skills while the band stepped off. Instead of running backstage to take advantage of the break, since the performance did not have an intermission, he lingered by the coulisse, showing his appreciation for Campbell’s sound.
At the end of the show, Botti even invited a teenager from the audience to come play the drums while he played the closing song, “Nessun Dorma.” The rest of the audience responded with a well-deserved standing ovation that could only clumsily sum up the joy of sharing in this musical celebration.