Manila, Philippines – “Warm, enthusiastic, it’s really hard to compare”. That’s how Grammy-winning instrumentalist Chris Botti sums up his impressions of the Filipino concert audience. The trumpeter and one-time session musician for big artists like Sting, Barbra Streisand and Paul Simon landed in Manila Sunday with an entourage of top-caliber musicians for a one-night concert at the Newport Performing Arts Theater of Resorts World Manila, sponsored by Manila’s newest lifestyle station, Radio High 105.9/fm.
Speaking at a lunch press conference at the Marriott Hotel, Botti also summed up his music and art in a few words. “I do have jazz and classical roots, but I’ve played with so many great pop musicians that my music has become a hybrid of all of those genres”. He also bemusedly recalled the time when he made it to the list of People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People in 2004: “You see, you don’t apply for those kinds of things. And when I got the news, I got teased a lot by my bandmates”.
Later in the evening, he joined an assembly of young Filipino talents of the Young Musicians Development Organization or YMDO at the Genting Club of the Marriott for a freewheeling masterclass that demonstrated the jazzmaster’s eagerness to share his life, craft and technique with aspiring musicians. Botti even invited a youngster to jam with him at his concert scheduled the following night.
The night began with stellar performances by music icons Richard Merk and Verni Varga, backed by an arsenal of intrepid sessionmasters in Elhmir Saison, Tots Tolentino, Roger Herrera and Mar Dizon.
The pre-show then came to a wrap with street violinist and YouTube sensation Bryson Andres who impressed the crowd with a pop song mash-up of One Republic’s “Apologize” and Katy Perry’s “Firework” that ended in thunderous applause.
Then, after a 10-minute technical break, the main act began.
Botti opened up with the elegant strains of “Venice” and from then on, there was no turning back as he expertly worked his Martin Committee trumpet – taking the audience on a magical, musical ride, building up towards a final, dazzling crescendo. Botti also dotted his repertoire with enough instrument and vocal solos to give his bandmates a moment to shine. And shine they did – from the warm, rich tones of vocalist Lisa Fischer, the blues sensibility of guitarist Leonardo Amuedo, the rhythmic genius of drummer Billy Kilson, and the sheer wizardry of bassist Richie Goods, violinist Aurica Duca, pianist Geoffrey Keezer and keyboardist Andy Ezrin. Even YMDO’s 11-year old prodigy John Philip Santa Ana rose to the occasion and played marvelously – impressing both the audience and Botti himself, who pledged to send him a shiny replacement for his simple cornet.
Judging from the collective gushing that filled the night air after the last number, it’s very clear how much Chris Botti has captivated his Pinoy audience, perhaps even leaving a good number of them wanting for more.
Maybe a repeat is in order?