Chris Botti sharpened trumpet skills during pandemic lockdown

The Grammy-award winning musician performs at Fraze Pavilion Friday.



After living in a New York City hotel for 5½, Chris Botti was ready for a change. The Grammy Award-winning jazz trumpeter, returning to Fraze Pavilion in Kettering on Friday, Aug. 26, decided to buy his own place and his timing couldn’t have been better.

“I checked out of the hotel on March 13, 2020 and I had no idea about the lockdowns,” Botti said. “While I was driving away from my hotel, I checked my phone and it said all of America is now in a social distance lockdown, blah, blah, blah. That was that Friday night and everything got canceled.

“My whole world, everyone’s world, just shutdown,” he continued. “So, I moved into my apartment and just sat there. Like everyone, I’m like, ‘What the heck?’ It was super impactful and, as time goes on, we’ll see what the pandemic will do to us.”

Wisdom in maturity

Botti, who turns 60 on Oct. 12, has had a long career. In addition to decades of solo work, the Oregon native also worked as a sideman for certified legends like Frank Sinatra, Buddy Rich, Paul Simon, Sting and Joni Mitchell. He admits he’s more worried about the pandemic limiting similar opportunities for modern youth.

“I’m on the back nine of life, so to speak, but it’s hard for younger people,” he said. “You know, there are kids that are 15, 16, 17 and 18 and they want to get noticed to go to Stanford for wrestling, to get into the Olympics, to be a chess champion or whatever their trip is. If you’re a young musician reliant on a jazz scene or something like that, man, it’s difficult.

“I feel broken hearted for those young people trying to make it,” he continued. “I’m super fortunate because I have my people that know who I am. I can recover a little bit but it’s rough for people in the really formative years of their life. You know, time will tell. That’s my pandemic rap.”

Botti admits to a bit of trepidation at turning 60 but, as a maturing jazz musician, he remains optimistic.

“I’m sweating it every day, man, (laughs) but I’ve talked to so many people that hit 60 and they just kind of relax,” he said. “It’s different at 75 or 80 but I think men start to evolve at 40. There’s a great quote, like, ‘Miles Davis didn’t play [expletive] in his 20s or 30s but, man, in his 40s …’

“You become a man in your 40s, unless you’re a tech entrepreneur or whatever,” Botti continued. “If you’re a musician, it develops later. Then, once you hit 60, if you’re in good enough shape, you go, ‘OK, I did it or I didn’t do it.’ It’s like the anxiety releases a little bit, at least that’s what I heard. I’m waiting until October and then I’ll tell ya.”



Rehearsing at home

During his time living in the hotel, Botti rented a rehearsal studio to practice his trumpet. His new apartment afforded him the rare opportunity to play his instrument any time of day without disturbing anyone.

“I live on the 85th floor,” Botti said. “It’s the penthouse of this building and it overlooks all of New York. You could literally shoot a cannon in my apartment and not bother anybody. It’s the first time in my life where I can play at 4 a.m. or 4 p.m. and it doesn’t matter.

“I couldn’t even do that when I was a kid,” he said. “I remember when I was a teenager, my neighbors would be like, ‘Chris, will you stop practicing?’ When I play here, no one can hear anything, it’s awesome. That’s one nice thing.”

As a jazz musician, Botti says honing his trumpet-playing skills is more beneficial than composing new material.

“The ability to produce sound and to play better is so important,” Botti said. “Singer-songwriters like Paul Simon or James Taylor have to have a new song but if you’re Keith Jarrett or Grover Washington, you’re identified by your sound and not the song. I learned a few years ago that I don’t really need to prepare, I just need to be a better, in-shape trumpet player.

“During the pandemic, I spent my time getting my physical body into shape and getting my trumpet playing in place,” he continued. “Now, it’s time to make music, which I hope I still remember how to do.”



Back in the studio

In September, Botti will use his lockdown-honed trumpet skills to record his first album in 10 years. The long awaited follow-up to “Impressions” (2012) will be his first album for iconic jazz label Blue Note Records.

“I cannot believe it has been 10 years but I’m finally doing a new record,” Botti said. “Don Was is going to exec it and David Foster is going to produce. David hasn’t produced a record in seven years. He goes, ‘Chris, I will never come out of retirement for anyone except you.’ So, I’m bringing him out of retirement. We’re going to do a jazz record and have the most famous pop producer producing it.

“He’s not going to play piano,” Botti added. “He’s just going to look at the speakers and go, ‘OK, this key needs to be different. This tempo is wrong.’ He’s just such a genius at knowing how to tug on people’s emotions and he’s not like a snobby jazz dude that wants to be all heady and doesn’t want to relate to anyone. He’s a fricking melodic, pop musician genius so I’m over the moon over this.”

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at


Who: Chris Botti

Where: Fraze Pavilion, 695 Lincoln Park Blvd., Kettering

When: 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26

Cost: $20 Tix pack, $30 lawn & terrace, $55 side orchestra, $60 plaza and center orchestra in advance, ticket prices increase $5 day of show

More info: 937-296-3300 or

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