Chris Botti's sixth album is a wonderfully, even perfectly crafted group of originals and covers that accent his deep crossover appeal as both a jazz and pop musician. Botti's phrasing is very keen, uncanny in the way it works with simple rhythmic structures, and his tone is rich and warm. His use of keyboards and drum loops is pretty much up to the minute in terms of its hip factor, and his arrangements appeal to serious jazz fans and are something akin to blessed-out ecstasy to smooth jazz aficionados. Therein also lies the problem. Botti hasn't significantly developed his sense of artifice since his debut album and, if anything, has delved deeper into its oh-so-cool bachelor pad faux elegance than ever on A Thousand Kisses Deep. The title track, a very moving song written by Leonard Cohen, is the finest moment on the disc. A spare guitar backdrop is adorned simply; Botti plays the melody in short, clipped staccato phrases for an entire full verse before the rhythm section enters. The effect is haunting, lushly romantic, and full of a sensual warmth that is as spooky as it is silky. The spare keyboards and brushed drums offer the song as something slightly Latin (thanks to the gorgeous guitar playing by Dean Parks). It could have been the love theme in Robert Rodriguez's Once Upon a Time in Mexico -- yes, it really does feel slightly mariachi! Burt Bacharach's "The Look of Love," despite a marvelous vocal by Chantal Kreviazuk, suffers from cute syndrome -- as does "The Last Three Minutes," another Bacharach tune. The straight pop stuff, such as "Ever Since We Met" with Bridget Benenate's breathy vocals, work very well. Botti's solo entwines the refrain and carries the singer's voice along into the ether. A duet with pianist Billy Childs on "My Funny Valentine" feels a tad stilted, but there is great tension resolution in the third chorus. "If I Could," another original, with the great Smokey Hormel on guitar in addition to Parks, is a true mood-setter. Smoky, slightly steamy with just a hint of a funk backdrop and Botti whispering through the pastel keyboard sounds with his own shade of deep blue and gauzy elegance, it's the babymaker on the album. In all, as with each of Botti's recordings, there is nothing inherently wrong here, and the formula is successful; it's one of the better mood records out there, but it's still formula, contrived and calculated to establish and keep the listener paying some degree of attention, but not too much.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek