Concert Hall, July 2
This was an aural version of one of those chocolate assortments catering to all tastes. The paradox was that in the process taste was often discarded like a wrapper, and Chris Botti served up soft-centred goo more often than anything of substance. In fact he would be in danger of becoming the Andre Rieu of jazz were he not so good.
Good, but a shadow of the electrifying force he was at the Basement in 2010. Each subsequent visit has seen that impact slightly diluted, and now the slide toward milk-chocolate blandness was almost complete.
Hastening the decent was the least visceral band he has brought here. Gone, most notably, were drummer Billy Kilson and singer Lisa Fischer, even if their replacements were still commendable. Lee Pearson proved a comparably virtuosic soloist to Kilson and added ample spice to the grooves without quite possessing Kilson’s X-factor instincts, and Sy Smith oozed charm and was blessed with a delightful soul-style voice. Nonetheless she was left swimming a little in the shoes of one of popular music’s great singers.
Violinist Caroline Campbell, as accomplished as she is, remains the show’s peppermint cream, while providing the hazelnut whirl was tenor George Komsky, capably cast in Andrea Bocelli’s role singing Botti’s Italia, the point of which somewhat evaded me – beyond stacking the box, that is.
Although pianist Geoffrey Keezer and bassist Richie Goods are fine musicians (and Ben Butler proved a competent guitarist), they ended up spending much of the night playing the sort of stuff that drives hack musicians in clubs to drink.
Then there was Botti himself, still with his gorgeous, rounded trumpet tone, and still abundantly able to fire off Keezer, Goods and Pearson to create some genuine heat and substantial music – which just made the soft-centred stuff all the more baffling. Oh, and did I mention the Sydney Symphony (under Nicholas Buc) was involved? No? Well you’d have barely noticed in the trumpet-dominated sound-mix, anyway.