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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: January 22, 2018

Taught by the best, trumpeter Chris Botti will play Merrill Auditorium on Saturday

Written by: Ray Routhier

Grammy-winning trumpet player Chris Botti will perform at Merrill Auditorium in Portland on Saturday.
Photo by Fabrizio Ferri

Chris Botti is truly a man with a horn, and little else.

About four years ago the Grammy-winning trumpet player, who counts the singer Sting as one of his best friends, decided to forgo many of the material spoils related to being a famous musician. He sold his house in Hollywood and most of his stuff. He even put his Grammy in his manager’s office. Then he moved into a New York hotel.

He’s been there, or on the road performing for people, ever since. On Saturday, he’ll be performing with his band at Merrill Auditorium in Portland.

“I don’t really value possessions, other than my trumpet, they’re just a drain on my psyche,” said Botti, 55. “Having a car, house, pool, that doesn’t get my brain going. What I love is touring and playing with my band.”

Botti has built a following over the past 20 years playing mostly instrumental music, including a lot of jazz standards. His album “Impressions” won the Grammy in 2013 for best pop instrumental album, and four of his albums, including “Impressions,” went to No. 1 on Billboard’s jazz chart. He’s also known to TV audiences for specials on PBS. The day before his show in Portland, Botti and his band will film a new PBS special at a theater in Los Angeles.

Botti has recorded and performed with a wide range of pop music stars, including Sting, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, Michael Buble, John Mayer and Steven Tyler.

He toured with Sting for two years in the late 1990s and credits the singer with helping him learn “massive amounts about touring and how to structure my life.” He says Sting is “like a brother” to him now.

Botti grew up mostly in Oregon. His mother was a classically trained pianist, but Botti said hearing her play didn’t make him want to be a musician, at least not consciously. The crucial moment in his life was when he was 8 years old and saw trumpet player Doc Severinsen leading the band on NBC’s “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson.

“That’s the power of television for you. I saw him and thought, that’s cool. Then I heard Miles Davis a few years later, and that’s when I really knew what I wanted to be,” said Botti.

Botti studied music at the University of Indiana. One day out of college he found himself with a gig backing up Frank Sinatra at an outdoor show in Los Angeles. He said from watching Sinatra, and others, he learned not to be afraid of talking to an audience. He learned that, if done well, it really energizes the show. So if you have front row seats at Merrill, be ready for Botti to turn his attention to you.

Botti tours with a band that includes drums, bass, guitar, piano, keyboards, three singers and violin. His set lists over the last year or so include standards like “When I Fall in Love” and “My Funny Valentine,” a version of Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” as well as pop tunes, rocks songs and classical pieces. He often does a version of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.”

“It the most difficult thing for me, to explain in advance what my show will be like. I’m a trumpet player, I’ve got two or three great singers, a great classical violinist playing with me,” said Botti. “And all the music is wrapped up in an ebb and flow of emotions.”

Chris Botti

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $56 to $96
INFO: porttix.com

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