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November 4, 2011

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Botti blends jazz and classy pop

AMERICAN composer Chris Botti is one of the world's most successful jazz trumpeters, sometimes compared with the legendary Chet Baker (1929-88).

Botti won his first Grammy Award in 1994 and has been nominated for others. His albums have sold more than 3 million copies worldwide. His recording of "Night Sessions" in 2001 established his reputation as a versatile musician in both jazz and pop, with an ability to fuse the two. He has shared the stage with many pop musicians including Paul Simon, Sting and Chinese singer Tsai Chin.

He and his band performed at Shanghai Concert Hall last week as part of Shanghai Jazz Week and spoke to media.

Q: How do you rate the jazz scene in Shanghai?

A: I had the great privilege of performing in Shanghai a few years ago, and it's one of the most energetic, bustling, amazing cities that I've ever been too. (But) I'm not that familiar with the jazz scene in Shanghai or China.

Q: Some people say one needs a lot of life experience to really appreciate jazz, but the music is increasingly popular among young people in China and the rest of the world. What's your view?

A: I think jazz is forever changing and evolving. And I feel certainly fortunate to have my career grow and continue in the past years. It has been such a great ride in the last seven or eight years when I could perform all over the world with the same band and reach new fans.

Q: Some people say listening to jazz is a good way to unwind and slow down in a high-pressure world. Are you one of those people?

A: I did just purchase a house but I'm not slowing down at all. Before I bought a residence last year in Los Angeles, I spent eight years with one suitcase that contained all my possessions. Everything I owned fit in to that one suitcase, my trumpet case, and a carry on. That was my life. There was no room for a dog, cat, girlfriend, wife ...

My schedule is brutal. We're on the road 300 days a year and I love it and I am very, very fortunate to be able to travel around the world and play music on this level with my amazing band.

Q: Many musicians are interested in cross-over with other musical styles and genres. You have performed with pop musicians. What is your view?

A: I've always loved sophisticated pop music like Sting, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon or Stevie Wonder. 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 has been the mix that works for me. Regarding critics, I don't pay attention to what they say or write. I focus on maintaining the sound of my trumpet, and also ask, "Do I have a growing audience?" and "Are my fans at my concerts enjoying themselves?" As long as these things are taking place, I am more than happy.

Q: You are considered the most successful trumpeter since Chet Baker, known for a strong, sad and romantic style. Do you see similarities?

A: We both play the trumpet and we both come from jazz and so the comparison is there but I think there are a lot of other influences, such as pop or classical that's not associated with Chet, but I appreciate the comparison. He was great.

Q: It's been more than two years since your last recordings "Italia" and "Chris in Boston." Do you plan a new album?

A: We've been recording my next album in both London and Los Angeles. We're around 70 percent complete and hope to release it in the US in February and internationally sometime after that.


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