Home  Reviews  Articles  Calendar  Presenters  Add Event     
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
Symphony
PEACE AND LOVE FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 04, 2018
Before the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 4 performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,” Symphony CEO Alan Silow took a moment to acknowledge the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack and to observe that music offers a more peaceful and loving view of the world. Mr. ...
Chamber
ATOS TRIO IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 04, 2018
When the ATOS Piano Trio planned their all-Russian touring program at their Berlin home base, it had a strong elegiac, even tragic theme that surely resonated with their Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience Nov. 4 in Mill Valley. Comprised of Annette von Hehn, violin; Thomas Hoppe, piano; and...
Chamber
ATOS TRIO IN OCCIDENTAL CHAMBER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 03, 2018
When the Berlin-based ATOS Piano Trio entered the cramped Occidental Performing Arts stage Nov. 3, the audience of 100 anticipated familiar works in the announced all-Russian program. What they got was a selection of rarely-plays trios, with a gamut of emotions. Then one-movement Rachmaninoff G Mi...
Symphony
MIGHTY SHOSTAKOVICH 10TH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 28, 2018
Just two works were on the opening program of the Marin Symphony’s 67th season Oct. 28, Tchaikovsky’s iconic D Major Violin Concerto, and Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony. Before a full house in the Marin Center Auditorium conductor Alasdair Neale set a judicious opening tempo in the brief orchestra i...
Symphony
VIVALDI FOR ALL SEASONS IN WEILL BAROQUE CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, October 27, 2018
The Venice Baroque Orchestra, a dozen superb musicians that include strings, harpsichord and recorder, played an uplifting concert Oct. 27 of mostly Vivaldi sinfonias and concertos. The Weill Hall audience of 600 had rapt attention throughout, and the playing was of the highest musical level. This r...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Chris Botti Jazz Band / Sunday, August 12, 2018
Chris Botti, trumpet. Musicians TBA

Trumpter Chris Botti

EXTRAVAGANT FUSION OF STYLES AT CHRIS BOTTI BAND WEILL HALL CONCERT

by Jerry Dibble
Sunday, August 12, 2018

Trumpeter Chris Botti still performs in jazz venues including SF Jazz and The Blue Note, but now appears mostly in cavernous halls or on outdoor stages like the Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center. He brought his unique road show to the packed Weill Hall August 12 in a concert of effusive energy but only sporadic elegance.

Mr. Botti has said unabashedly that the gauge of success for him is the ability to wow an audience: “When the promoter wants you back, that’s what I keep my eye on. All the other stuff is fly by night. When you go see a concert, you want to have your head blown off. You want to see or feel something you’re not going to see or feel anywhere else. I’ve never had a hit song, ever. Nobody could whistle a Chris Botti song, but I’ve made it a priority to win people over, and I do that, one show at a time.” Judged by that standard, his show was a roaring success, as the terraced lawn outside the open doors at the rear of the hall was also full. I was seated inside and the audience smiled, tapped feet and bobbed heads through more than two hours of music without an intermission. They also gasped with appreciation, applauded loudly, and rewarded impressive solo performances with standing ovations.

If there was any disappointment for the crowd-pleasing Botti, it must have been that much of the audience left between the last number and the single encore. Perhaps that was understandable, since the average age of the audience in the main hall was at least 60, the concert was long and it was getting late.

I last heard Mr. Botti on tour at SF Jazz five years ago, and his band’s personnel has changed since then, as has its repertoire and its approach to the music. For example, several of the dewy-eyed, smooth jazz ballads from Mr. Botti’s early career were still on this program, but only as shadows of their former selves. An updated version of When I Fall in Love, the second tune on the program, began with a soft rock introduction, followed by a characteristic but skillful balladic rendering of the melody from Mr. Botti that gave way after eight bars to a farrago of tempos and feels, from high energy rock to salsa jazz. Next, introducing the group’s rendition of You Don’t Know What Love is, a long-time staple of the trumpeter’s repertoire, he promised to “play a jazz standard for about a minute, then the drummer’s going to drive the band off a cliff.” It was a suicidal exercise that he aided and abetted by doubling and redoubling the tempo at the end of the first chorus.

And finally, as an encore, the group offered The Nearness of You, another smooth jazz ballad from an early Botti album, but here given a funky, two-beat treatment, at a tempo the group doubled twice before the end of the tune.

In between, there were substantial parts for various members of the band, including three vocalists, and they were sometimes accompanied by Mr. Botti, sometimes alone or with other members of the ensemble. Pianist Eldar Djangirov played Variations on Bach’s Prelude in C-Sharp Major, a dazzling fusion of classical and jazz playing; Caroline Campbell, a long-time band member, contributed a violin extravaganza that found her not merely adding drama and expression (like most violin soloists) with flopping hair and impressively flashy bow work, but dancing and twirling across the stage then falling to her knees, with her head thrown back and her violin pointed to the sky, as she played on. Flashing strobe lights and artificial smoke added drama, if more was needed. And finally, Brazilian guitarist Leonardo Amuedo, drummer Lee Pearson, and bassist Richie Goods each had their turn as well, as did singers Sy Smith, Jonathan Johnson, and Veronica Swift. The last sang There Will Never Be Another You at breakneck speed and Embraceable You at a more relaxed tempo.

But at the end of the evening it was still unclear what glue, if any, held the music together. Mr. Botti has said that one of his job as a leader is “to put together a Rubik’s Cube of all-star musicians.” It is a difficult metaphor. Surely, the job of the leader is not merely to assemble musicians but to solve the Rubik’s cube by aligning the different colors and elements so they form a coherent whole.

The driving force behind the performance seemed much more an admiration for awe-inspiring energy and technical skill than a common agreement about the emotional value of sonic depth and subtlety of expression. My colleague Philip Beard commented in a previous Botti band review on the excessively high volume levels in the hall, but volume adds energy, of course, as do jaw-dropping pyrotechnics--long, unbroken strings of sixteenth and thirty second notes, multi-octave chromatic runs and false-fingered tremolos. And so too does extensive use of heavily amplified digital instruments in place of the more subtle, timbre-rich sounds of acoustic ones.

Each of the supporting musicians in the concert had both kinds of instruments on stage and played them at some point in the concert. But Mr. Botti himself has long performed with an electronic pickup clipped to the bell of his horn, the output amplified and enhanced with reverberation. Unless you have heard trumpet soloists like Maurice Andre, Bud Herseth, Wynton Marsalis and Roy Hargrove in person, it’s hard to explain what is lost when the natural resonance and timbre of the instrument and the player’s physical relationship to the horn is washed out by electronics.

The same thing is true of the differences between acoustic and electric bass, acoustic pianos and electronic synthesizers, and heavily miked bass drums and snares and the naturally balanced sound of a drum set. Not just in relationship to acoustics, but in other respects, less is often more in music, and it would have been nice to see more spaces between phrases, more dynamic range, more reflective and less notey improvised lines, and more careful listening and interaction among the members of the group, even during solos. As things stood, it was an impressive concert but not one for those with especially seasoned and sensitive ears.