The honor of being chosen as the opening act of the 30th Anniversary Berks Jazz Festival in Reading, Pennsylvania, went to lyrical legend Chris Botti, who took the opportunity to showcase an international cast of magical musicians.
“The number one reward for being invited back to the Berks is the real respect of your peers,” the self-described Road Warrior said as he used the stage to set up four powerful guest performers like his inspiration Miles Davis to move the audience through two and a half hours of wildly entertaining music.
His respect for music collaboration came from three decades of touring with such iconic vocal legends as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Paul Simon, while having the chops to hang with such contemporary crossover stars as Lady Gaga and Sting.
Botti strode onto the stage with his signature shock of white hair wearing a black tie and tuxedo to kick off the evening with violinist Sandy Cameron in a matching black bustier whose energy set the stage for a stylish evening of out-of-the-box musicianship.
Chris Botti spent two of his formative years in Italy where he found his “bel canto” lyrical horn style that was honed as an accompaniment to great vocalists like Barbra Streisand. So, you don’t need a playlist when listening to Botti as your musical memory fills in the missing lyrics to Gershwin’s “Summertime” from his top-selling instrumental artist CD Impressions.
“It’s a trip having a suit on again!” Botti said after the opening set as he gave way to tenor saxophonist Andy Snitzer his second special guest as he left the stage for his fellow horn player to showcase his powerful funk style only to re-emerge in a black body suit to comfortably finish the evening.
Botti again paid homage to his Italian influences by inviting his third special guest Jonathan Johnson, whose full operatic tenor voice filled the Santander Center, followed by a rock concert finish with Sia Smith’s dramatic appearance from the back of the house belting out a high-energy string of Whitney Houston hits to send the nearly packed house on to the steamy streets of Reading before the Friday Night Main Event at the nearby Double Tree!
SEE ALSO: Maysa: the voice and face of Berks Jazz Fest review by Malcolm Lewis Barnes