Chris Botti had lofty ambitions for his third recording as a leader and his first for GRP Records. "I wanted to make an adult romantic record with integrity," explains the acclaimed trumpeter and composer. He has achieved that and more with Slowing Down the World, a captivating work that confirms Botti's standing as one of the most innovative talents in contemporary pop music. The young giant had already garnered widespread attention and praise for his successful 1995 Verve debut First Wish, his score for the 1996 Robert M. Young film Caught, and his 1997 Verve Forecast release, Midnight Without You. Now, Botti offers his most fully-realized musical statement to date with eleven gorgeously produced new tracks, including eight original compositions. Pop superstar Sting performs a stunning version of the classic "In the Wee Small Hours," and Botti makes his singing debut with a rendition of Randy Newman's "Same Girl."
Slowing Down the World takes its title from Botti's dedicated yoga practice. "I became heavily involved with yoga two years ago," he says, "and this record is the product of the marriage of my yoga study and my music. It's slightly more meditative and more organic than what I've done before." Citing his concern with our society's preoccupation with information on demand, whether through television or the Internet, Botti explains, "Our infatuation with technology has devalued daydreaming that ability to just sit there and drift off which is so critical to an artist. We get ahead of ourselves; we lose touch with ourselves. If I sit down and listen to Miles Davis or Frank Sinatra, I can be drawn into the music to the point where everything else slows down. That's what I hope people can do with this music."
Botti recorded most of Slowing Down the World in Los Angeles, where he now makes his home. Other sessions took place in New York City, where the trumpeter lived for 14 years. His all-star instrumental collaborators include keyboardists Bob James and Jeff Lorber; bassists Larry Klein, Tony Levin, and Nathan East; guitarists Shane Fontayne, Greg Leisz, Dean Parks, and Tim Pierce; drummers John Robinson and Peter Erskine; and percussionists Jerry Marotta and Alex Acu a, as well as members of Botti's touring band keyboardist Harvey Jones, guitarist Marc Schulman, bassist Jon Ossman, and drummer Joe Bonadio. Botti also traveled to Italy, where Sting recorded his vocal; and to London, where string arranger Anne Dudley conducted the 30-piece London Sessions Orchestra.
"I've always loved her kind of majestic, classical sensibility," Botti says of Dudley, well known for her work with the Art of Noise, producer Trevor Horn, Seal, and others. "One of my favorite records was the 1967 collaboration between Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim, with the strings done by Claus Ogerman. And I've always been curious about how to use orchestras in a really modern way. I'm really happy with the way the tonality of the orchestra blends with the trumpet. I also think it adds a level of integrity in this day and age when everyone is making records out of their house."
The sophistication of Slowing Down the World should come as no surprise to those familiar with Botti's previous work. Born in Portland, Oregon, he first took up the trumpet at the age of 10 and quickly put himself on a professional course. Botti studied with bassist Dave Friesen, legendary jazz educator David Baker at Indiana University, saxophonist George Coleman, and the late trumpet great Woody Shaw in New York. He also cultivated his pop interests working with producers Hugh Padgham and Arif Mardin, and a host of major recording stars in New York. He produced a track on the 1994 GRAMMY Award-winning Brecker Brothers CD, Out of the Loop, recorded ingenious original arrangements of J. S. Bach's Violin Concerto in A Minor for Windham Hill's The Bach Variations and Mozart's Adagio from the Concerto in E for Violin for Imaginary Road's release A Different Mozart, and performed on albums by Carly Simon, Chaka Khan, and Tony Levin. Nine years ago, Paul Simon chose Botti to join his band for the 15-month long Born at the Right Time tour, cementing a relationship that continues to this day. This summer, Botti will rejoin Paul Simon on tour, before taking his own band on the road in support of Slowing Down the World.
Although Botti devotes most of his time to his solo career, he continues to field calls from his pop peers. In the last year alone, Natalie Merchant featured Botti on her record, and Joni Mitchell recruited him to perform in her intimate group (with Larry Klein, Greg Leisz, and Brian Blade) on her limited fall concert tour. Botti toured as a member of the avant-rock Upper Extremities band with drummer Bill Bruford, Tony Levin, and guitarist David Torn, and composer John Barry made Botti the featured soloist in his score for the Sean Connery film, Playing By Heart. Recently, Barry invited the trumpeter to premiere the score live during two concerts at London's Royal Albert Hall. On the soap opera One Life to Live, Botti made his daytime television acting debut, in addition to performing two songs on two episodes.
First and foremost in Botti's mind is making music that speaks from his own heart and resonates with his listeners. "At the end of the day, I think it's the tone of an artist, the shape of an artist's melodies that really set him or her apart from other musicians," he says. "Groove and tempo aren't necessarily going to carry the day if the song is mindless. The tempos on this record are actually quite a bit quicker than they were on the last record, but the melodies have a more legato nature. Sinatra and Miles did that their whole careers, sitting back on the time and elongating the phrases, and I really like doing that."
Playing his recently acquired 1949 Martin Committee trumpet, the same model that Miles Davis used throughout his career, Botti has created a compelling blend of sumptuous orchestral textures, hip contemporary grooves, and inspiring solo performances. "I've always been a fan of records that make complete statements, that have a thread or mood that links the whole record," he says. "This is quite possibly the strongest record I've done." Indeed, with Slowing Down the World, Botti sets a new standard for modern pop music, shaped in equal measure by intelligence and soul.
Bio & photo courtesy of The Verve Music Group