Chris Botti

Midnight Without You

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The trumpeter makes apologies for making albums whose very straightforward melodies owe more to his pop session work with Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, and Scritti Politti than the Chet Baker jazz vocabulary he grew up learning. If Botti was aiming for such a seemingly paradoxical blend of open spaces and smoky intimacy on Midnight Without You, he's definitely on the mark. A few of the tracks here -- most notably the snappy blues-based pop tunes "Regroovable" and "The Way Home" -- have seductive rhythm schemes and hypnotic gut-sticking hooks, but the rest just sort of hang back and play aloof, daring listeners to find them anything more than steamy, romantic background music for slow dancing and whatever comes next. The Blue Nile's Paul Buchanan infuses a folky vocal personality into the title track, and "Mr. Wah" uses those synth textures as a springboard for some more intensive improvisational funk exercises, but on tunes like "The Steps of Positano," "Never Gone," and "When Rain Falls" Botti's warm tones are in service of what amounts to a melancholy soundtrack to a rainy day. Which seems to be Botti's very intention.

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