It never feels like work when you are sharing the load with a good friend. Such is the case with American smooth-jazz man Chris Botti, who will headline the Dubai Jazz Festival on Thursday, February 25 alongside his good mate, and British rock icon, Sting.
The Dubai Media City Amphitheatre date is the first of six shows they will perform together, billed as “Chris Botti featuring Sting”.
The show will mainly feature Botti and his band, with Sting joining them on stage about an hour into the set.
The casual vibe, Botti explains, stems from a smaller series of performances in the New York jazz institution Blue Note.
“Every year the band and I do a residency there,” he says.
“It has now expanded to 28 days and 56 shows,” says Botti. “Sting and I are close friends and what would happen is that he would come down to many nights and just sit in. We would start doing songs of his.
“One night as a joke I said, ‘Hey, why can’t we take this show on the road where it’s my band featuring Sting?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, that will be fun. Let’s do it.'”
The show marks a role-reversal of sorts for Botti. The 53-year-old first performed in the UAE as part of Sting’s band when the veteran played the Dubai Aviation Club in 2001 as part of his Brand New Day tour. This time, Botti is the star.
Fronting his own band, he will play a selection of favourites from his 10 albums, including covers of classics such as Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria and Cole Porter’s I Got You Under My Skin. However, concertgoers shouldn’t expect the chilled and nocturnal vibes that have long been a hallmark of his recordings. Botti says the band intend to turn up the volume.
“My live shows are radically different from my records,” he says. “The albums are tailored and sort of planned to put someone in a – and, I know this may sound a bit cliched – romantic or dreamy mood. When we play a live show, we stretch out and rock out. It’s a more adventure-jazz show and it has more of a virtuosic tendency than the records, which are meant to be restrained and beautiful.”
Born in the United States, with frequent childhood trips to his father’s homeland of Italy, Botti was influenced by his classically trained pianist mother to pick up the trumpet at the age of 9.
After studying the instrument, Botti’s skills were acknowledged with a recording contract. His 1995 debut First Wish began a successful run of 14 recordings, four of which reached number one on the American jazz chart.
The acclaim persuaded Sting to invite him in 1999 to perform as a featured soloist on his Brand New Day tour.
Botti says Sting never treated him as hired help. Instead, the Englishman urged him to express himself throughout the tour.
“He allowed my trumpet to blossom among his music and grab some of his fans,” he says. “That was his promise to me.”
Botti – a road hound who performs more than 150 shows a year – says the upcoming tour is more than simply another run of dates. It is a celebration of friendship.
“I wouldn’t have the career that I have now if I didn’t meet Sting, be in his group and subsequently him and I becoming such close friends,” he says. “I can’t look away from the favours he gave me and the way he is.
“He was the guy I learnt the most from and now we are reaping that relationship’s rewards by doing this tour together. It is a big thrill.”
Chris Botti and Sting perform at the Dubai Jazz Festival, at the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre on Thursday, Febraury 25 at 10pm. Doors open at 6pm. Tickets start at Dh325 from www.dubaijazzfest.com
Source: art & life