There’s likely only one jazz trumpeter with as varied a resume as Chris Botti. He’s toured with Frank Sinatra, recorded with everyone from Andrew Bocelli to Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, tallied up three top spots on the Billboard jazz charts, and was voted one of People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People in 2004.
The Oregon-born musician has sold over three million records in his 30-year career, but he didn’t fully hit his commercially successful stride until 2004 with the critically acclaimed album When I Fall in Love, a collection of jazz and pop classics. There’s no doubt that he’s part of the peer group of Kenny G and that ilk, but what seems to set Botti apart (aside from the “Beautiful People” nod) is the diversity of his experiences. For every predictable collaboration (Josh Groban, Yo Yo Ma), there have been some surprising pop-rock stints, like two years touring with Sting and guest vocals from the likes of John Mayer and Jill Scott.
But the breadth of his musical experiences, aside from his undeniable skill with such a difficult instrument, is likely what makes Botti such a welcome addition to the party. Whether playing at an Oprah Winfrey gala, a Victoria’s Secret fashion show, or a PBS special, Botti’s appeal is his ability to adapt to almost any musical genre. Even the Grammys have stamped Botti with a seal of approval: Five nominations in the last two years alone. But, Botti’s sole win wasn’t even for the trumpet: rather, it fell under the convoluted title of “Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)” for the 2005 single “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”
From his song and album titles, it’s obvious that Botti typically aims for the heart when he records, but don’t be fooled by the seemingly saccharine fare. Whether creating a slow, mournful wail on the seductive “Flamenco Sketches,” putting his own spin on a beautifully subtle “Ave Maria,” or setting off the smoke detector with the sexy, slow jazz groove on “Good Morning Heartache,” Botti might be responsible for some of the best smooth classics you’ve ever heard in an elevator.