Grammy Award-winning trumpeter Chris Botti has arranged his life so that it revolves around music and a radically streamlined lifestyle.
“I live full time in a hotel in Soho, New York,” Botti said, speaking by phone from his New York digs in late December.
“I own no possessions. I have, like, six suits and a trumpet – I’m sorta joking, but that’s about it,” he said. “I don’t have a storage locker.
“I’m on the road 260 days a year or something like that, and the room just sits here empty when I’m on the road. It’s a nice little place to come home to; it’s one of the cooler hotels in New York, so it’s got a nice social environment to it.”
Possessions? A showplace home in L.A.? Sports cars? Botti, 54, isn’t interested.
“I did the whole thing and I hated it, so I bailed on everything,” he said. “If I was here all year ’round, I might feel differently, but because I’m so transient I never have to hear the words, ‘Someone broke into your house,’ or, ‘The roof is leaking,’ or, ‘The pool is leaking.’ It’s great.”
He stops by Modesto’s Gallo Center for the Arts for a show Saturday, March 11.
As for being a Grammy Award winner in 2013, after 31 years in the business and 12 albums, Botti said the peer approval the award represents is nice but that the most important award for a musician is having people buy your albums and come to your shows.
“It’s really nice to walk on stage at some event and someone says, ‘Please welcome Grammy Award-winning …’” he said. “For a musician your real Grammy is, ‘Do you have a concert ticket-buying audience?’ If you do, regardless of whether you have a statue in your house, that’s your Grammy.”
That said, Botti describes his Grammy-winning 2012 album, “Impressions,” as a once-in-a-lifetime project.
“There was a record company that allowed me go in with basically an unlimited budget and hire the best orchestrators and the best studios in the world with the best symphonies and all these special guests. That record probably couldn’t be made, probably, unless I paid for it myself, again,” he said. “The style that they allowed me to do, that grand kind of recording process? Those days are going, they’re going quickly.”
Botti gave the record label its money’s worth. Not only did “Impressions” win a Grammy; it was also a commercial and popular success, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard Jazz Album chart. “Impressions” also reached a respectable No. 32 on the Billboard 200 album chart.
“Impressions” was so successful that Botti has spent the past three years telling people that “the live shows are completely different from my records,” he said.
“The records are made to be listened to and enjoyed. … ‘Impressions’ is 13 different ways of playing a ballad, basically, but you don’t want to see that in a live show,” Botti said. “We have elements to our show that have all the pretty stuff that make people get emotional, but then we open the spigot so to speak and let the band go.”
“I’m really lucky to be able to take a world world-class band on the road, keep them on the road with me and have the variety of being able to have two different singers and a classical violinist – and we shred,” he said.
He wants audiences to know that Botti in concert is no “watered-down smooth-jazz show or some light milquetoast ambient record, or just a guy with a trumpet.”
Ah, yes, the trumpet. That would be a 1939 Martin Committee large-bore Handcraft trumpet that Botti plays with a 1926 Bach 3 mouthpiece. Both were gifts from a friend who Botti says “did me a real big solid” when he brought them to a show.
“He just said, ‘I think you might like this instrument,’ and handed them both to me. I just played one note, not thinking anything really about like what was about to happen – this was 14 or 15 years ago – and I said, ‘You’re never getting this horn back.’ I’ve never tried anything else since.”
Botti says from experience that no two trumpets sound alike, even if made by the same craftsmen in the same year.
“They probably only made 200 Martin Committee large-bore horns in the ’30s – maybe only 100. I own two of them and they play so differently. I’ve never really run across one that even remotely sounds as good as the one I particularly have used for the last 15 years,” Botti said.