by JENNIFER LIEBRUM
am not prone to being star struck, and I can't write fiction because I lack the ability to fantasize.
But while listening to the music of Grammy award-winning jazz artist Chris Botti on a recent rainy day, and knowing the virtuoso trumpeter will be coming to Sun Valley on July 29 to play with his band in the Sun Valley Pavilion, I couldn't help but imagine lying on the grass as the sun begins to lower with the light evening wind wafting his sensual sound over the knoll littered with picnickers and sun-kissed children running barefoot all around.
It has all the makings of a best-of-summer memory complete with the handsome leading man.
The New York Times called Botti "a modern-day jazz heartthrob." Critical acclaim has been matched by enormous popularity, but Botti, pronounced "boat-tee," didn't get by on good looks alone. He paid his dues to get to the top of his genre, offering himself as a studio musician for years before being picked by Paul Simon and later Sting to play live.
His ongoing association with PBS has led to four No. 1 jazz albums, as well as multiple gold, platinum and Grammy awards. His style is versatile, allowing him to collaborate with varied musical luminaries, from classical greats such as Yo-Yo Ma and opera powerhouse Andrea Bocelli to pop artists like Josh Groban.
The July 29 concert at the pavilion will be conducted by Jeff Tyzik and include the full Sun Valley Symphony Orchestra, Botti and his band of guitar, bass, drums, piano, violin and vocals. Tickets, from $50 to $500, are on sale now. Those from $250 to $500 include a pre-concert cocktail
reception at the Sun Valley Lodge terrace at 5 p.m.
Alas, as in most fantasies, there is a crushing reality—the lawn will be closed for this performance. But at least you can look at him the whole time he plays, or you can bring a pillow, tilt your head back and dream.
Botti answered a few questions from the Express this week.
How did you get started in music?
< My mom is responsible for exposing me and getting me into music at an early age. Being a piano player, my mom first got me into piano, but, as many kids do, I rebelled against it. I wanted to do something different.
I saw Doc Severinsen on television and thought the trumpet would be cool. So I picked one up, and then a few years later, when I was 12, I heard the first three notes of Miles Davis' "My Funny Valentine" and at that moment, I knew I wanted to be a jazz musician.
After studying at Indiana University, I left to perform with Frank Sinatra and Buddy Rich. After that, I moved to New York to work as a studio musician. Living in New York was an amazing experience. You start meeting people, making contacts, and once you play on people's records, people start to take notice. I was available for whatever anyone wanted me to do. That's how Paul Simon discovered me—he always borrowed his musicians from the studio world. And of course, I certainly owe Sting most of my career for giving me my big breaks.
When I was in Sting's band, he gave me so much exposure by doing solos with me and really promoted my career in a big-time way, but it was the opportunity to be his opening act throughout the world that really launched my career. He's always been the biggest supporter and the best friend, and he's like my big brother, really.
You cross so many musical genres. Is that due to your desire for personal challenge or to reach a broader audience?
The reality is very few people are going to go out and step into the shoes of a Clifford Brown or Freddie Hubbard or Wynton Marsalis or Roy Hargrove with the kind of honesty they have playing that music. Yes, I can play straight-ahead jazz music, but it never felt honest. The music that really moved me was slightly more languid. Miles Davis in the '60's is great and I love the aspect of that music where the harmony doesn't move as quick and you're not boxed in. I've also always loved sophisticated pop music like Sting, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon or Stevie Wonder, and the combination of performing jazz instrumentally with influences of sophisticated pop music has always been at the cornerstone of my music. Now, in addition to classical music, it's been the mix that works for me.
What has being one of People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful done for your street cred?
This particular issue of People magazine is selected fairly randomly, and I just happened to be at the right place at the right time. I don't concern myself much with how a magazine ranks me in appearance. I guess every entertainer has an image—Louis Armstrong's handkerchief, Miles Davis' suits, etc., and if my blond hair helps people enjoy my music, great.
What's the Holy Grail dream collaboration for you?
I've always wanted to work with Peter Gabriel.
You've played with so many greats and in so many great places. How did we get you to come here?
I love doing shows just with my band without the orchestra, but every time we play with an orchestra, I mean for the fans and for the audience, there is just nothing like it. Because you get this three-dimensional quality and it's very sophisticated. We really have put a lot of effort into hiring the best arrangers and having a real romantic night of music. It's my favorite. Add to that, performing among the natural beauty of Sun Valley and performing with an amazing orchestra featuring many musicians whom we've played with at other venues around the country, you just can't beat it. I'm very excited to play this show.
To learn more about Botti, visit www.chrisbotti.com.
July 29 benefit kicks off Sun Valley Summer Symphony season
What: The largest privately-funded free-admission orchestra in America will open on July 30.
When: July 30 through Aug. 14.
Where: Sun Valley Pavilion
Info: www.svsummersymphony.org or 622-6507.
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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.