Trumpeter Chris Botti has discovered the secret to contemporary jazz success.
With inimitable brass chops that have led to recording sessions and tours with the likes of Sting, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, the Oregon native maintains his jazz coolness with original studio work. He dabbles in the mainstream for added exposure.
"Historically, if you look back, whether you're Herbie Hancock trying to reach a larger audience or whomever, your goal is to try to sit in front of as many people as you can get," says Botti, from a hotel room in Detroit.
"Miles [Davis] used to play in front of a bunch of rock acts because he knew that he could do 200 nights at a 200-seat jazz club, or he could go in front of one 15,000-seat arena and knock it all out and get his point across. I think ultimately, in this day and age, that's what you're trying to do if you're lucky.
"And we've been lucky lately."
Botti's luck began as a featured soloist with Sting on the 1999 "Brand New Day" tour. In 2004, he performed on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," and then grabbed a high-profile opening slot on Josh Groban's 2005 Midwest tour, which included a memorable Valentine's Day show at Gund Arena in Cleveland.
The next big move for Botti is only weeks away, when PBS airs a one-hour concert, culled from his upcoming Chris Botti Live DVD/CD release due out in late March. The musician says non-mainstream artists seek an eclectic audience through public television more often these days.
"That's still the one area that's not held down by radio airplay," Botti says. "And a lot of people when they see us live, have a very different [opinion]. They say, "Shit, we didn't know it was going to be like that.' And I'm really proud of that."
The DVD/CD concert footage was recorded last year while Botti was touring in support of To Love Again: The Duets. Featuring plenty of stars (Sting, Jill Scott, Gladys Knight, Paula Cole and more), the romantic album is something Botti is proud of, despite its distance from the cutting edge.
"The thing I'm most proud of on this record is, all of the singers are all my friends," Botti says. "I think that gives the record its kind of thread that goes through. All of these singers did it for the music and the friendship rather than some record company going, "You need to do this to reach a larger audience with radio play.'"
Currently, Botti is in the midst of a long touring schedule that brings him to the Pikes Peak Center on March 9.
"It's a crazy thing," Botti says. "We'll stretch [shows] for over an hour and a half and, because it's jazz, you want it to be non-scripted. That gives it its flavor. It's fun. And you want to feel like you're sort of jumping off a bridge, musically."
Pikes Peak Center ,
190 S. Cascade Ave.
Thursday, March 9, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $30-$42.50; call 520-7469 or visit ticketswest.com.