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Chris Botti: Italia

By Published: October 18, 2007
AAJ: I can imagine. That must have been quite an experience.

CB: It was.

AAJ: I am half Italian, and can attest to the fact that there is simplicity in the way Italians live their lives; as though it were an unspoken mantra. There is an enormous amount of things from which to draw inspiration within the Italian culture. Italia is a shining example of this. It is an exceptional listening experience. When I first learned that you were making an album like this, I instinctually knew that Andrea Bocelli would be featured. He is the quintessential voice of Italy.

CB: What can I say about him? For him to say something so beautiful about me—I'm not sure how to return that compliment. Like you said, he embodies the voice of a country. The interesting thing about the song "Italia is that it was written primarily by David [Foster] and me and then he brought in Andrea Bocelli, but we needed lyrics.

AAJ: Lorenzo Cherubini wrote the lyrics.

CB: Right. He is a huge pop star in Italy. He heard the song as it was, with just the melody and me playing the trumpet and David humming into a microphone. He heard it and he said, "Oh my God, I want to write this lyric. He did it and came back to us over the weekend, and had this kind of love letter to Italy written out. It is beautiful—the way he sketches that picture of Italy; the way that a person always returns home and the love for the streets, it is just a really great lyric. It was really cool to see how the song unfolded; to have David—this legendary producer on it—and have Andrea Bocelli and this great Italian lyricist write the lyrics. I am very proud of that song.

AAJ: It came together very well. You all left your imprimatur on it. You must be so pleased with the results for this project. You brought Paula Cole in to sing "The Very Thought Of You, that is always a good choice. She is able to truly convey the meaning of lyrics in a way that is unmatched.

CB: What I have learned from working with Paula, in terms of her voice—we cut "The Very Thought of You in a couple of different ways. It is so funny because we basically went with a version of the song that has hardly anything underneath it, except the orchestra kind of moves in and out but very softly, so it left a lot of room for her voice. She does it all in one take; so you hear her in this papery, beautiful voice. She pulls back on the time to kind of evoke that heartbreak, and the simplicity of it is just beautiful.

Bobby Colomby the producer, really made us go with a much more stripped-down version of that song for her to sing. I am really pleased with the result. She sang so beautifully on all of my albums; of the things that she has done between When I Fall in Love (Columbia, 2004) and To Love Again (Columbia, 2005), "The Very Thought of You is by far my favorite vocal performance.

AAJ: I can't imagine anyone else singing that song.

CB: She did a great job.

ChrisAAJ: I really love what you achieved with [Rodgers and Hart's] "It Never Entered My Mind. I think whenever you take on a song by such an iconic figure as Miles Davis, it is a challenge. However, you brilliantly incorporated your own point of view.

CB: "It Never Entered My Mind is arguably one of the greatest arrangements of all time. I have always loved that song so much. I didn't even want to remotely get in that same kind of thing that Miles did because, you know, how would you even go about it? So I told Jeremy Lubbock to just "Give me a bed of strings and we'll play with the orchestra and just give me a lot of room to maneuver around, time-wise. Of all the albums that I have done, I am very pleased with the flow from song-to-song and the different arrangements on Italia.

One thing that I really don't like about certain records that are released these days is that every song kind of has the same feeling to it; and on this album I am very pleased with the outcome. There are different things from classical to jazz; stripped-down songs to the three vocal songs that kind of mark out their positioning on the record. That is the kind of music that I like to listen to—that super chill stuff. That is not necessarily what I like to play in concert, but on a record, I love that really intimate place.

AAJ: It must have been a challenge on some level to decide which songs to include on this project, there are so many possibilities and so many timeless songs to choose from.

CB: Yes, because we didn't just keep it to music written by Italian composers, we stretched it into Italian cinema and certainly the music of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Therefore, there is a bridge to the American standards with these songs, and so that romantic quality is what we wanted to still go after. I think it also helps that we recorded twenty-one songs, and the listener is getting twelve, with an additional four songs as well. Having the luxury of recording all of this different material enabled us to pick and choose what worked. Going into it, some of the things that I really thought would work didn't work. A song that I thought would be a great song to lead off the record didn't come remotely close to making it. You just never know, until you go in and record as much as you can and see which songs really work.

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