Jazz trumpeter Chris Botti has worn a lot of hats in his time. He's been a radio host, the leader of a talk show's house orchestra, a composer, an arranger, and a performer of both smooth jazz and more classic jazz. He's also known for working with pop and vocal performers, ranging from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to Rod Stewart and Paula Cole. As such, he straddles two worlds; there is his smooth jazz/light pop work, which makes up the majority of his career, and then there is the more traditional work that he has moved into in the latter half.
I'm glad he's moved into more traditional work. Because In Boston, his live album released this year, is mostly in the smooth jazz and collaboration vein, and honestly, there's just not enough trumpet in it.
Botti counts Miles Davis as one of his main influences, and I've no doubt that he has the chops to at least shine Saint Miles' shoes – but you couldn't tell it much from this disc. Most of the album is taken up by voice and trumpet duets that range from the sublime ("Broken Vow" with Josh Groban) to the ridiculous ("Smile" with, of all people, Steven Tyler – what, were the Dropkick Murphys on tour?). Two duets with Sting and one with John Mayer are mostly throwaway as well; they're pleasant enough, but eminently forgettable once over.
When this disc actually lets Botti play, the results are infinitely more satisfying. His version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" is eye-opening in its approach, he handles Davis' "Flamenco Sketches" with ease, and his covers of "Ave Maria" and "When I Fall In Love" are excellent. The true masterpiece, though, is "Time To Say Goodbye." It takes serious brass (you should pardon the pun) to take on Bocelli and Brightman's magnificent duet, yet Botti manages his own indelible stamp on a magnificent song.
In truth, I'd like to hear more of Chris Botti the jazz trumpeter, and a little less of his friends and associates. While In Boston has its high moments, in the end, it fails to completely deliver.
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