By Matthew Wong
Before Chris Botti’s concert on Oct 13, at the President’s Dinner and Concert here in Camarillo, I could hardly call myself a fan. As a matter of fact, I had not even heard of the man before I saw the fliers for his gig on campus. I’m immensely glad I decided to go however, as the experience ended up being far better than I had initially anticipated.
The concert took place at the Commemorative Air Force Museum, not even twenty minutes away from Cl. The night was cool and overcast, yet it didn’t rain at all. Upon arrival, I parked my car some distance away from the entrance and – feeling rather under dressed for the occasion – showed my ticket and made my way to the space they had cleared for the concert. The VIPs were treated to horderves and closer seating to the stage. There was food and drink for the other guests to purchase as well.
The concert kicked off to a smooth start, with Chris Botti taking the stage with his band to play a number of jazz tunes. Along with Botti on the trumpet, there was also Eldar Ejangirov on the piano, Lee Pearson on the drums, Reggie Hamilton on the bass, Leonardo Amuedo on the guitar and keyboard, Caroline Campbell on the violin and Sy Smith on vocals. The whole band didn’t all play for every song and instead took turns sitting out. Botti was rather proud of his band, taking opportunities to brag about each of them.
Aside from the jazz mentioned earlier, smooth and otherwise, the band played a variety of different genres throughout the concert. Campbell, taking the lead for one song, graced the audience with some classical, country and modern pop improvisations from her violin during a jazz number – as one does. The band even did a piece that sounded like it came straight out of a rock and roll concert. The selection of music was likewise grandiose. All the songs they played managed to draw me into a feeling that one can’t quite put into words - feelings of excitement and raw enthusiasm.
The band members themselves were all world class musicians, picked by Chris Botti to be a part of his “Rubik’s Cube,” as Botti called it. All of them were stellar. I was quite blown away by their level of skill. From Campbell’s improvisations to Amuedo’s fantastic guitar solo to Smit’s stellar high notes to Botti’s own tremendous skill on the trumpet, I could tell that this was one of the greatest groups, if not the greatest, that I have ever heard.
I’ll admit, I certainly wasn’t expecting much when I decided to attend the concert. However, I’m most certainly glad that I did. From the world class musical skill displayed by the musicians to the immersive music, I was totally enthralled by the entire experience. I may have gone to the concert expecting just another jazz player, but I left a fan.