Chris Botti in Boston features trumpeter Chris Botti along with a bevy of name artists performing live with the Boston Pops Orchestra at Symphony Hall in 2008. Fully documented as a concert film and album, the night is an intimate and soulful birds-eye view of the supple-toned trumpeter who has grown into his role as a virtuoso since his time backing up Sting -- who of course appears here. Perhaps it isn't surprising then the concert is subtly reminiscent of Sting's own classic coming of age concert moment Bring on the Night. If Sting's 1986 show was an attempt to reintroduce himself to the world as a pop-cum-jazz artist, then Botti's 2008 show is clearly a showcase for the one-time smooth jazz wunderkind to fully represent himself as the eye of his own crossover storm. Having never fully embraced the synthetic vibe of the smooth jazz sound, Botti has spent his time since 2004's massively popular When I Fall in Love creating his own organic, acoustic and "straight-ahead" crossover jazz. In the context of contemporary smooth jazz, Botti's retro-gesture is actually kind of innovative. Clearly owing a heavy debt to legendary trumpeter Miles Davis, Botti not only surrounds himself with the elegant, live Boston Pops Orchestra, but has hired some of the most heavy-hitting rhythm section players on the scene with drummer Billy Kilson, bassist Robert Hurst, pianist Billy Childs, guitarist Mark Whitfield, and others. The result clearly pulls much inspiration from Davis' work with Gil Evans -- he even plays "Flamenco Sketches" -- but never seems to belabor the comparison. Similarly, Botti's choice of guest artists including vocalist Josh Groban, violinist Lucia Micarelli, and even rocker Steven Tyler always appears genuinely considered based on Botti's own musical taste. And although pairing the elegant cellist Yo-Yo Ma with Botti is somewhat of a no-brainer, their work together here, much like the entire concert itself, is never less than breathtaking.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar