The suave horn-wielder makes a suave horn-wielding album. No surprises there, then.
Kathryn Shackleton 2002
From the tousle-haired-Adonis portaits to the silken paper they're printed on, the packaging of Chris Botti's 'Night Sessions' CD murmurs "smooth jazz". A label on the cover credits Chris as being 'the sexiest trumpeter since Chet Baker'. He's certainly the prettiest, but that's where similarities with Chet peter out.
Chris's day job is as trumpeter with Sting, but he got together with Kipper, Sting's producer, for a few weeks between tours to write and record Night Sessions. So, it's not surprising that there's a recognisable Sting feel here. 'Lisa' and 'Miami Overnight' have a funky backbeat reminiscent of the ex Police man, with Chris's simple melodies and ethereal tone hovering over the top. Both have catchy but repetitive melodic lines and, like all of the tracks on the album, they're subject to Kipper's mellifluous production.
'When I See You' has the rhythm section heading for speeding tickets until Chris joins in and puts his foot on the brake, bringing them back into the smoochy lane. Strangely, the slick production which characterises the rest of the album falls away towards the end of this track, when Chris is exposed (you wish!) in a welcome 'Buena Vista Social Club'-inspired passage. Also welcome are the 'Additional Keys' credited to jazz pianist Billy Childs, and scattered through the album. "Best Time" suffers from a lack of centre until Billy pitches in, his sparse solo piano saying more than the rest of the band put together.
Camilla adds vocals on "You Move Me", but it's Shawn Colvin who steals the show, her voice up-front and satisfying on "All Would Envy". Chris blends his horn-playing in beautifully and the song really works. It's coherent, with a direction which is lacking on some of the other numbers, and Chris's haunting trumpet enhances the dark lyrics.
Night Sessions is velveteen jazz, beautifully packaged. The sleeve is easy on the eye, and the horn is smooth on the ear. For his next album, though, I look forward to hearing a post-night-on-the town Chris Botti - unkempt, unshaven and unplugged.