Chris Botti @ the Monterey Jazz Festival 2006
Now, I'm not a Chris Botti hater, he's a talented musician, I've even played (gasp) a few cuts from his 'When i Fall In Love" cd, which is his most "straight ahead" oriented project thus far. He's not someone I'd normally seek out to see in concert however. But since I had the arena ticket, I thought it would be interesting to hear his band, and get the "live experience."
I got to my seat midway through "When I Fall In Love". By the time I sat down the tune had transformed into a tight jazz funk groove, punctuated drummer Billy Kilson's sonic explosions, and laser like trumpet flourishes from the leader. His Miles influence is quite clear, though his playing lacks both the edge and vulnerability of Davis. Even in his most daring moments, in what even his harshest critics would have to admit is a jazz setting, he never breaks a sweat, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing. However, that cool, unflappable persona certainly has something to do with his popularity.
His band is interesting, in that his guitarist, Mark Whitfield, pianist, Billy Childs and drummer, Billy Kilson all prove to be more interesting players on their instruments than Botti is on his. But all that said, I don't really have a problem with him, at this stage in his career. If all smooth jazz musicians had his talent and musical sensibility as it realtes to jazz, that genre wouldn't be quite so dreadful. I can't imagine many Kenny G fans using the G-man's music as a bridge to be interested in "real" jazz, though I certainly see that as a likely outcome with Botti.
He played a nice version of Flamenco Sketches, and a Leonard Cohen tune as well, but once he brought out his vocalist, (a pop singer from LA, whose name I forget) the set went downhill. As they started a rather dreadful SJ radio style arrangement of "The Look of Love", the lure of the barbeque of Emmanuel's on the midway was too much, so I vacated my seat.
On the way to the food vendors, I stopped by to catch a few minutes of Aaron Goldberg's set. It was good, and certainly had the spontaneous edge that Botti's polished performance seemed to lack, but Goldberg really hasn't ever impressed me, or stood out from a crop of a hundred other talented piano players of his generation. I missed most of his set, so it's hard to give a complete review, but I'd say it was one of those sets that you know is good, but on a personal level didn't really connect, at least for this listener.
More to follow...