Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. Will the real Chris Botti please stand up? The multiple musical facets of this quality smooth jazz trumpeter must at times leave him with a serious headache. In recent times he has juggled his frequent television spots with live performances for Hilary Clinton and has played ‘God Bless America’ at the 2005 World Series. He has combined a hectic tour schedule with his new role as smooth jazz radio’s voice of chill yet among all of that here he is with his new CD To Love Again offering up 13 newly recorded pop and jazz standards that feature nine vocal performances of varying appeal.
To Love Again is the successor to Botti's gold album When I Fall In Love which turned out to be one of the biggest sellers of 2004. It has sold more than 500,000 copies to-date, tapping into the record-buying public's desire for classic romantic jazz sounds and their seemingly insatiable hunger for morsels from the ‘Great American Songbook.’
Among the vocal duets that feature on nine of the thirteen songs, Botti weaves in four trumpet solo’s that are of the highest order. To Love Again is a nice barometer for the dreamy mood of the entire collection, ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’ is ultra cool and Botti does a nice job on that classic tune ‘What’s New’ Best of the four solo’s and a contender for best track on the album is Botti’s sublime version of the timeless Gershwin classic ‘Embraceable You’. It is quite simply stunning.
As said, as far as the vocal duets are concerned, the results are variable. Botti played with Sting for two years from 2000 as part of the Brand New Day tour so it’s not surprising that he was able to get the English vocalist to guest on To Love Again. The result, ‘What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life’, is by no means a stand out although there is no doubt that the mass audience appeal and ‘street cred’ that Sting offers to any project makes it worth having him around.
Much better in fact is the number Botti performs with Paula Cole who also featured on When I Fall In Love. The track, ‘My One And Only Love’, is so beautiful and so warm that the listener is sure to realize that irrespective of age or taste there is a point in everyone’s music listening life where a tune like this seems just perfect.
As on his last album, Chris Botti is joined by the London Session Orchestra, who add lush tones to the album's arrangements throughout and their presence is in evidence on another classic, ‘Let There Be Love’ featuring Michael Buble on vocals. I have a problem with Buble in that he appears to be not much more than a credible Frank Sinatra wannabe. That would be OK if it was not for the fact that the talented Harry Connick Jr. is still around and doing the same thing. One person should be adequate to fill the shoes of Sinatra, if indeed they ever can be filled, so there seems hardly room for another. That said ‘Let There Be Love’ has a feeling all its own and Buble does it well.
Both ‘Here’s That Rainy Day’ and ‘Smile’ featuring Rosa Passos and Steven Tyler respectively are a little dreary while ‘Pennies From Heaven’ featuring Renee Olstead is nothing more than a nice version of this much loved standard. Paul Buchanan’s distinctive vocals turn out not to be a marriage made in heaven with the song ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’ but Gladys Knight, in late night cabaret mode, is predictably wonderful with ‘Lover Man’. Its one of the albums true stand outs as is ‘Good Morning Heartache’ featuring Jill Scott. This melodic and subtly funky number, with the introduction of Scott’s vocals so delayed that when they do arrive it comes as a delightful surprise, is the first track from the album to be identified for radio play and is already being predicated to do well on smooth jazz radio. The tune is further enriched by the arrangement and keyboard playing of Greg Phillinganes, who can also be found in collaboration with Herbie Hancock on his current project Possibilities.
As with When I Fall In Love which was devoted to once and future classic love songs, the collection that is To Love Again invites the listener to romantically chill, perhaps not with the contemporary vibe that Botti engenders on his weekly syndicated radio show but more in the way that lovers have chilled over the last seven decades. As they say, what goes around comes around and as it does Chris Botti is proving, in all his guises, to be the king of chill that can transcend the years.Posted by Denis Poole at November 2, 2005 8:19 AM