Chris Botti's "To Love Again" is an impressive pop-jazz crossover outing that includes guest singers from Sting to Steven Tyler sharing the spotlight.
It is an anomaly when a mainstream, largely instrumental jazz album breaks into The Billboard 200, but it is particularly noteworthy when said disc scales the chart and settles in for an extended stay.
That is what happened last year when trumpeter Chris Botti's ballad-drenched "When I Fall in Love" not only spent 32 weeks on the pop albums chart (peaking at No. 37) but also held at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Jazz Albums list for 17 weeks.
Botti's Columbia Records follow-up, "To Love Again," could be an even bigger hit. The impressive pop-jazz crossover outing -- released Oct. 18 as a standard CD and DualDisc -- includes guest singers from Sting to Steven Tyler sharing the spotlight.
"'When I Fall in Love' went mainstream beyond my wildest imagination, especially since it's slow, melancholic music," says Botti, who is on a two-month U.S. tour, which culminates in a double-header Nov. 25-26 in Honolulu. "I wanted to make a jazz record that was easy to digest and be enjoyed as a lifestyle listen while also being appreciated by musicians for the music and its high quality of recording."
A collection of standards that featured Sting and Paula Cole, "When I Fall in Love" has sold 526,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and has been certified gold, a tremendously rare feat for a jazz album. His previous sales high was for 2001's "Night Sessions," which has scanned 182,000 copies.
Botti says last year's triumph "set the table" for "To Love Again," which also features vocals from Michael Bublé, Jill Scott, Gladys Knight, Renee Olstead, Rosa Passos and Blue Nile's Paul Buchanan. Interspersed throughout the Bobby Colomby-produced collection are four moving instrumentals.
The CD was recorded at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles and Air Studios in London. Although not a typical standards album, it includes such pop-jazz chestnuts as "My One and Only Love," given an aching read by Cole; a relaxed jaunt through "Good Morning Heartache" with Scott; a strings-swing into "Let There Be Love" with Bublé; a hip, big band dance through "Pennies From Heaven" with Olstead; and the highlight of the pack, "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" given what Botti calls the "instant heartbreak" treatment by Buchanan.
"I wanted to give these vocalists an opportunity to sing songs they normally don't get a chance to sing," he says. "Except for Rosa Passos, I knew all these singers personally beforehand. I have a working relationship with them, so it wasn't a question of having the label line up a bunch of all-stars."
As for criticism from the traditional jazz world that Botti's style veers into smooth jazz territory, the trumpeter is not fazed.
"I look back to Miles Davis working with [arranger] Gil Evans to get that melodic orchestral sound," he says. And he points out that the trio of arrangers from the last CD -- Jeremy Lubbock, Gil Goldstein and Billy Childs -- are onboard again.
"This is not dumbed-down music, but sophisticated and romantic," Botti says. "And to think that today it could sell like a pop record for the adult audience, that's exciting to me. It's like finding a needle in a haystack."
Botti pays homage to Davis on the DualDisc version of "To Love Again." In addition to live-in-studio footage of two instrumentals from the CD, there are two non-album performances: "Milestones" and "Flamingo Sketches," both by Davis.
Borders will offer a limited edition of "To Love Again" with a bonus track: an instrumental version of "Body and Soul." Another Borders exclusive is a boxed set of Botti's last three Columbia CDs, including 2003's "A Thousand Kisses Deep" and "Night Sessions."
Excerpted from the Oct. 22, 2005, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to Billboard.com subscribers.
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