Interview: In tune with trumpeter Chris Botti

Chris Botti now travels the world, leaving audiences in awe of his trumpeting skills and smooth, world-class musicianship. But he won’t soon forget his start and it wasn’t nearly as glamorous.

At age 21, the jazz musician left college to join Frank Sinatra’s band. He calls the experience “wonderful” and describes his younger self as incredibly naïve. He remembers meeting the legendary Sinatra.

“I went up and introduced myself to him. Maybe I was a little bit enthusiastic. I said ‘Hi, I’m Chris Botti from Oregon.’ His assistant came up and said ‘Don’t bother Mr. Sinatra anymore.’ That’s what happens when you’re a kid and have stars in your eyes. It’s part of being young.”

Botti’s live performances are completely different than his albums because, as Botti explains it, albums are supposed to keep someone in a particular mood. With concerts, he can show off his talent in performing various musical genres, including rock ‘n’ roll and jazz.

And for anyone wondering, Botti takes the stage with his trumpet in-hand.

“The audience is very involved. It’s not a stuffy sort of program-oriented thing. It’s kind of very loose. We have a really good time and enjoy each other on stage,” he said. “We get some requests and we usually oblige those requests if someone yells something out.”

Unlike some entertainers, Botti is not linked with one particular hit. He’s an artist and his career is built on musicianship.

You could say his start with “Ol’ Blue Eyes” set the stage for an iconic career. For the past three decades, he’s performed alongside the most acclaimed talents in music, from cellist Yo-Yo Ma to Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler.

Although Botti took home a Grammy two years ago for best pop instrumental album, he said the real sense of recognition comes during live performances when he sees the audience enjoying the music. “That’s the Grammy award, to know that there’s an audience for you in all these different parts of the world. I never in my wildest dreams thought something like this would happen,” he said.

Wade Allen is a reporter for The Shelby Star and The Gaston Gazette in North Carolina You can follow him on Twitter at @wadeallenstar.

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