Botti - Hope for us non-standard players

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by ComeBackKid, Feb 12, 2010.

  1. ComeBackKid

    ComeBackKid Fortissimo User

    May 11, 2009
    Yorba Linda, CA
    I just returned from a Chris Botti live concert at the Orange County concert hall – the first time I have seen him live. It was done in conjunction with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra and was a great event. Even though I sat in the highest section (waaaay up) and was a long way from the stage, I had a powerful set of binoculars so I could study the technique of Botti during the concert. I think that my findings should bring hope to all of us who feel that we are not doing everything according to “accepted” standards. Keep in mind that my observations are not in any way meant to be critical of Chris. He is an amazing player and puts on a great show. It was enjoyed by everyone there.

    But, for comparison purposes, here are some of the things that I noted:
    1. Chris plays a vintage trumpet – not one of the new mega-horns as well as using a vintage mouthpiece and mute. So, it is not necessary to have the latest hardware to be amazing. (Note: According to an article in Wikipedia and several other internet sites, he plays a Martin Committee trumpet but one poster here claimed it is a Handcraft Imperial.) Also, he uses a 1920’s Bach mouthpiece and an old Leblanc mute. The trumpet, whatever it is, is lacquered brass but is not in pristine condition – I could see lots of areas of missing lacquer and tarnish so he does not feel a need to have a shiny horn while playing. Also, he played the same horn for the entire show. He didn't switch to a Flugelhorn or a Piccolo or anthing else - just the man and his old Bb trumpet wowing everyone.
    2. His embouchure is “old school” – he curls his lips over his teeth is a sort of modified “smile” embouchure – not the pucker style. Also, he plays with the mouthpiece off-center to the left and 75% top lip, 25% bottom lip (as far as I could tell). So, it is possible to be amazing without a textbook embouchure.
    3. His face literally turns purple when he holds the long, high notes. He can hold those notes for a long time so he has learned to adapt. During breaks, when he puts the horn down, a red ring on his lips can be seen so he is apparently not a zero-pressure player.
    4. He holds the trumpet very tightly with his left hand – it appears to be almost a “death grip” and he does not use any slide tuning that I could see. I have not seen a Committee in person but the photos that I have seen show an adjustable 3rd slide ring which Chris had removed. Also, I don’t know about a 1st valve saddle or trigger but his trumpet had neither. (Note: One description of the Committee indicated that is has very loose slotting which is apparently good for jazz and perhaps this feature allows him to lip the notes into tune without the need for adjustments.)

    So, regarding equipment, embouchure, breathing, and intonation adjustments, he leaves all of us room for hope that we can play amazing even if we don’t fit the “standard” profile in every way. So, with that newfound encouragement, I’m off to practice.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2010
  2. Big Daddy

    Big Daddy Mezzo Piano User

    Mar 22, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    I saw him last summer at the Greek Theatre in LA and he was amazing.
  3. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I guess if one wants to play like Chris Botti, there is hope for "non standard".

    My experience is that even non-standard players benefit from standard, common sense practice habits: lower the impact by relaxing more, keep our horns clean, stick with the working mouthpiece and most of all: remember it is the gunner and not the gun.
  4. jason_boddie

    jason_boddie Piano User

    Dec 26, 2008
    Jacksonville, FL

    I haven't been on in a long time.

    But, I am glad to be back to see your words of wisdom.
  5. Franklin D

    Franklin D Forte User

    May 23, 2009
    The Netherlands
    First, I am a big Botti-fan.
    I know his records very well and I heard and saw him live a few months ago here in Holland (in Zoetermeer to be precise).
    And still I have some remarks concerning his use of the Martin Committee.
    I really regret that I never played the largebore Committee so I don't have firsthand experience. But if I listen to Botti I hear one big struggle with the intonationproblems of the MC. Of course, he is an accomplished trumpeter and he knows how to adept. The strange thing is: I never hear that with Miles Davis, it seems that Miles blows deep out of his self, every note is spot on. I strongly believe that Botti gets out the last molecule of sound out of the MC but he pays the price therefore in the form of intonation-issues. But I really think that Miles Davis needed the MC for his superior intonation, a really good slotting trumpet could have been MORE difficult for Davis, he was so unbelievingly good in the intonation of notes that the wide slotting MC must for him being a necessity for really playing in tune TO HIS STANDARD.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2010
  6. Markie

    Markie Forte User

    Jan 4, 2009
    Clarksburg, WV
    Hi ComeBackKid,
    Botti studied under jazz educator David Baker and trumpet professor Bill Adam at Indiana University. Botti was also the recipient of two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts which allowed him to study with trumpeter Woody Shaw and saxophonist George Coleman during two consecutive summer breaks.
    Yes there is hope for all of us. To have an identifiable sound(which Bottti has) is what we all strive for (pending that sound doesn't suck). The above (wiki quote) stresses the importance of standard practice routines and guidance. Botti has to keep his chops to the grind stone just like the rest of us.
    Do the common sense practice but strive to sound like yourself.
  7. Spincircles

    Spincircles New Friend

    Feb 24, 2007
    I just saw Botti perform in Detroit. It was great.

    During the performance, he made a point of calling for and then speaking to a young middle school band member to talk about the midwests strong wind music programs. He also harrased the young student playfully when she evaded his inquiry on how often she practiced trumpet.

    Interestingly (perhaps only to me) I think Botti was playing in the same Detroit music hall in which Ralph Mendez split his lip when a Bass player threw a door open in front of him.

    Troy Mi
  8. gglassmeyer

    gglassmeyer Piano User

    Apr 28, 2006
    Cincinnati, OH
    I'm sorry to admit that while I think he's an amazing player, I just plain don't enjoy what he plays. I had a couple of albums on my MP3 player and found myself skipping past his stuff, finally I removed it.

    I'm glad for his success, and that he's reaching out to a broader audience and bring quality instrumental music to the masses.
    I would like to see him perform live though, because I suspect that what I didn't find in the recordings was spontaneity. I think in the studio an artist will strive for perfection and to me that makes it somewhat stale/sterile. Jazz should be a living evolving thing and I don't get that sense when I hear his studio recordings.

    Maybe if I got to hear the first few takes before they started the sterilization process, I'd find what I'm missing. I really don't mean to rain on the parade, I'm glad you enjoyed the show and I really do respect him as an artist. I will definitely look to see a live performance when he comes near Cincinnati again. I think I will appreciate him more in a live setting.
  9. Jerry Freedman

    Jerry Freedman Piano User

    Mar 4, 2005
    Botti has a gorgeous sound but I can't say I find what he plays engaging although he does it beautiful. I'd give a body part or two for a tone like that. As far as "non-standard" goes, who plays in a "standard" method.

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