Finding his voice
If you’ve only heard Chris Botti on the radio and haven’t had a chance to catch the band live, you may think this record is a bit of a departure from his normal style. Just like this trumpeter, the eloquent melodies of When I Fall in Love are more jazz than pop. When I Fall in Love is simply Chris Botti’s autobiography on disc.
"I’ve really just come full sort of full circle. It’s what I always did my whole life and I think that’s what separates me from a lot of other people . . . The whole record is done like a jazz record. It’s all improvised or straight one down and one take. There’s no real overdubs. I’m very, very proud of it," said Botti.
When asked why When I Fall in Love sounds so different from his previous recordings, Botti said, "I’ve always sort of done this my whole life. It’s just that I haven’t chosen to record this way. I just wanted to do something different and it just seemed a logical approach now with the kind of recognition that I’ve had and the ability to have a record company that believes in you that will make a record like this."
Adding, "The core of it [the record] is still very much me, but probably more me than anything else because it’s all ballads for the most part. They’re all pretty much romantic songs and they’re all recognizable and I’ve been leaning that way more and more as my career has gone on.
"It’s the tone of my instrument and those beautiful melodies and that hasn’t changed. If you look at what really shines on this record, even the classical song that closes the record, the Bocelli song, "Time to Say Goodbye" - it’s still me. It’s the sound of my trumpet playing that melody. "One More for My Baby" - it’s the melody and the trumpet. "Nearness of You," "When I Fall in Love," "My Romance" . . . all of those songs. "Someone to Watch Over Me" - it’s really first and foremost about the tone of the instrument that conveys the mood of the setting of the song and then those great melodies. It’s hard to mess with those things.
"What has changed so dramatically on this record are the trappings behind me. I think there are elements to the way I play "Lisa" like there are elements to the way I play "La Belle Dame Sans Regrets." There are so many things. The attitude of this record is definitely tied into all my love of the Blue Nile and my love of all this stuff. It’s romantic trumpet playing and I think when you’re approaching melodies like this and phrasing melodies with lots of space and you’re not just playing straight up bebop, it allows you to be more yourself and less cookie cutter or copying someone."
Bobby Colomby, who previously produced December and worked with Botti on "Same Girl" on Slowing Down the World, served as the Executive Producer for When I Fall in Love. When asked how Botti evolved into the making of this special recording, Colomby said, "Any fine musician evolves in that when you continue to listen to the world around you and not just the music, but just the events and emotions of things that occur, you grow musically as well and I think you are hearing his growth on this record." Adding later, "With Chris, all I try and do is extract what he is capable of and he’s a fabulous trumpet player, who probably has the best sound on that instrument that I’ve ever heard and if you combine that sound with solid material that really zeros in on the beauty of that sound, then as a listener . . . you’re going to get who he is."
Creating an identifiable sound that reflects the soul of his music is at the heart of what drives Chris Botti to create. Botti shared, "This record really shows off my trumpet tone in such a way that hasn’t been shown off in any of my other records to such an extreme. A lot of people come up to me and say, ‘Chris I can tell it’s you in two notes.’ This record is hanging its hat on that. That’s where I live in this kind of moody, wonderfully reflective kind of way and that’s what I’m most proud of my trumpet sound. That’s what I’ve worked so hard on my whole life and that’s what I think separates me from everyone else."
The making of the album
When I Fall in Love breathes organically in a consistent flow of movement with lush arrangements by Gil Goldstein, Jeremy Lubbock and Billy Childs. The exquisite musicianship featured includes the London Session Orchestra, Sting (vocals), Brian Bromberg (bass), Billy Childs (piano), Paula Cole (vocals), Shane Fontayne (guitar), Billy Kilson (drums), Jeff Lorber (keyboards), Dominic Miller (guitar), Jon Osman (bass) and Federico Peña (piano). Botti fans will enjoy hearing him sing background in "What’ll I Do?" with Paula Cole.
In creating this new CD, Botti wanted something that was sensually soothing and musically enticing. Stating, "This album is like a concert. You sit there and if you want to fall asleep, you can fall asleep, but if you want to get into the peaks and the valleys, the incredible orchestra swells, the space, the beautiful piano by Billy Childs, the beautiful orchestration by these guys and certainly I’ve got to say my trumpet has never sounded as luxurious as it does on this record because of Al Schmidt (Grammy-winning engineer). When you get somebody like that to ensure the sound the way it is, there is nothing really else to do. It’s like those guys that coach Tiger Woods on how to golf swing or Lleyton Hewitt on how to do a backstroke. They’re all the top guys. When you get the top guys, you get the top results. We got 15 of the top people in the world working on this record."
For those who may be wondering why Botti chose to make a contemporary standards album at this point in his career, the answer is fairly simple. He wanted " . . . [the] opportunity to make a record that is classic and one that I’ll love until the day I die. That’s it. That’s all I’m looking for. In the prime of my trumpet playing to be able to make a record like this with these individuals is just an absolute honor and a blessing and that’s it . . . We didn’t really think about anything other than - let’s just indulge ourselves in the music we want to make and forget about everything else. Let’s make music."
Colomby fondly confessed his excitement in making this album as well. Proclaiming, "We were like two kids in a toy store being told "knock yourself out" . . . I’ve never seen a project like this in my life . . . I’m just glad I was there."
What the future holds for this soon to be 42-year-old trumpeter is unclear, but we do know that Botti is enjoying the ride. Smiling, "If my career were to end today, this is the record that I would want to be remembered by. This is my statement record. This is the one that I’m absolutely most proud of not only as a trumpet player, but of the people who worked on the record."
Previously published at www.bottiology.com
To see photos of Chris on jazzreview.com click here.