When one thinks of Italy certain things come to mind, chief among themromance, fashion, the culinary arts and a cherished optimistic outlook on life. For years, the Italian arts have chronicled the human condition. And now, prolific trumpeter Chris Botti has personified this through his release, Italia (Columbia, 2007); employing outstanding singers Andrea Bocelli, Paula Cole and a posthumous duet with Dean Martin. The result is something truly extraordinary.
Musical excellence is synonymous with both Botti and Bocelli. They are storytellers who build upon their vast experiences and musical expertise, employing their sensibilities to create entrancing stories, which contain pinnacles of emotion that reverberate in the souls of listeners. Italia, which showcases artistry of the highest caliber, will capture the hearts of all who listen by its heartbreaking melodies and poignantly haunting vocal interpretations.
Katrina-Kasey Wheeler discussed Italia with Botti, and also acquired the perspective of renowned luminary, Andrea Bocelli.
All About Jazz: What was the impetus behind this project?
Chris Botti: Well first and foremost, I am Italian.
AAJ: Have you spent much time in Italy?
CB: I lived in Italy for two years when I was a child; I attended the first and second grades in Italy. I think that there is a romantic connection to Italy, even if you have never been there. When people say Italy, it instantly transports them to whatever vision that they have in their own minds; whether it is history, food, fashion, romance, the countrysideor any of those things that are so great. The melodies of Italian pop and classical music have one thing in common: they have a beautiful art to them, which means that they translate quite well onto the trumpet.
I've always loved the whole Ennio Morricone thing. With a song like "Nessun Dorma, the expanse of that type of a melody makes it really great for a trumpet player. That was really the thought process that we had, going back to a year and a half ago. I've done American standards records and I've done more of electronica type records, and so with this project I really wanted to try to do something that isn't necessarily a jazz album. Italia is the furthest away from any kind of improvisational that you can get on any of my records. This project is really trying to set a mood that is evocative of the Italian feel.
AAJ: So then you basically knew that your next project would lean more toward Italian themes.
CB: Right, we came up with the concept and title first, and then the music flowed from that. I approached David Foster to see if he would write the song "Italia with me, which he graciously did and it turned out so beautifully. He then brought in Andrea Bocelli to sing the song. That was the first song onboard, and then we sculpted the record around that. Sometimes in instrumental music, the concept and title can be just as important as anything else because it really opens the door for the whole record.
AAJ: The song "Italia certainly captures the essence of the Italian expression that you were aiming for. When Andrea Bocelli sings, he fills people with emotion. I feel that both you and he have that same ability to connect with listeners in a very profound way. Andrea Bocelli agreed with me and said, "I love my country and my roots as much as Chris loves his native Oregon. I think we do have this gift in common and this is certainly the reason why we can really connect. I always try to reach for the hearts of listeners when I sing, and I can feel the same emotion coming across when Chris plays. I share with Chris the love for music and I love the atmosphere he creates with his trumpet. That is quite a compliment.
CB: Yes it isthat made my day.
AAJ: You will be featured on the Andrea Bocelli special that will air this fall on PBS [American Public Broadcasting Television]. It is interesting how all of this came together serendipitously. You first worked with Andrea Bocelli on a song called "Estate on his album Amore (Sugar, 2006). You had the sound that they were looking for as Andrea Bocelli said to me, "We were looking for a special introduction to the song 'Estate' and we needed something charming and classy. David [Foster] said, 'I think I know what we need,' and in a couple of days I got to hear this beautiful piece. Once again our paths crossed as if it were some sort of magic. I was working to put together a huge concert, a beautiful show in my native Tuscany, in a magnificent valley immersed in silence and I was thinking of calling Chris to invite him to perform when I received a call from David Foster requesting to sing the song "Italia. I enjoyed performing with Chris very much in my hometown. I think we gave the audience some unforgettable moments, as it was unforgettable for many of us who performed.
CB: Yes, he taped a PBS special at his own private amphitheater in Tuscany; it is perhaps one of the most beautiful venues I have ever seen in my life. We premiered "Italia at this concert and the two of us got to the end of the song and we played this high suspended note together very softly. It was a thrill to be up there on that register right underneath him. It was magical to be in that place, to feel that voice come off the stageI loved it.