Issue October 1, 2007

Botti shots, Sticks and stones, new grass revival, Mann up

Saturday, Oct. 6

Chris Botti
Chris Botti

The ever-amazing horn player Chris Botti spent several formative years in Italy before his family brought him to the West Coast of the United States at an early age. That turned out to be a damn good move for his subsequent career.

“Not a lot goes on in Oregon,” Botti said in an interview with LEO, “so I definitely had plenty of time to practice the trumpet there.”

More importantly, as a 12-year-old Portland resident, he discovered Miles Davis — and decided, on the spot, that he was going to be a jazz musician. Botti later ended up in Indiana for formal schooling, eventually making some high-profile friends who have helped him immensely along his career path.

“The music industry is very small despite what a lot of people think,” Botti said. “And musicians talk, you know, and I’ve just been fortunate enough to somehow become the jazz musician that pop musicians seem to like to work with and hang out with or whatever.”

He is referring to the luminaries who have invited him to accompany them over the last 12 years, a diverse crowd that includes Steven Tyler, Chaka Kahn and the late Frank Sinatra. Clearly, there is no shortage of work in sight.

Botti remains humble, but his talent is sought by jazz maestros and pop giants for good reason. “I’ve been around doing this for a long time, and I guess I’ve learned how to interact well with singers onstage and in the studio,” he said.

He still considers himself lucky. “My career was broken or exposed to the whole world through my ongoing relationship with Sting and his music,” he said, “so he is the reason I have an international career and am performing for large audiences today.”

When Botti performs downtown this weekend, things will come full circle. His appearance will feature an evening of straight jazz, and he will debut pieces that explore the geography of his childhood. In other words, he will celebrate his native Italian culture through song. This is no surprise, given that Italy is also the theme of Botti’s superb new record, Italia, which hit stores last Tuesday.

Chris Botti performs at the Brown Theater (315 W. Broadway, 562-0100) Saturday night. This all-ages show starts at 8 p.m. Tix are $28-$45.

Thursday, Oct. 4

Red Stick Ramblers
Red Stick Ramblers

The Red Stick Ramblers are bringing their Louisiana blend of dance music to town. Dance music, is, it seems, a relative word in the post-disco era. In this instance, we refer not to a Diddy production, but rather a delightfully danceable mix of Western swing, Cajun fiddle tunes and 1930s-style jazz that the Ramblers have help re-popularize. As the name implies, these Sugar Hill recording artists do get around. Their current trek features tracks from their latest, and well-received album, Made in the Shade. The Red Stick Ramblers perform at Jim Porter’s Good Time Emporium (2345 Lexington Road, 452-9531) tomorrow night. The concert starts at 8 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 5
John Mann is an old soul at 29. While still in his teens, Mann was signed to an indie label, opened shows for the likes of Steve Earle, and fronted one of the loudest bands in Kentucky (WFPK favorites Pleasureville).
But fatherhood and teaching music in an elementary school have mellowed the Mann. These days, when he is not playing with the Tim Krekel Orchestra, Mann tends to go it alone. His current solo work is often compared with John Prine, Van Morrison and John Mellencamp’s middle period.
Interestingly, though apropos of nothing, John is kin to rockabilly pioneer and early Sun Records recording artist Carl Mann.

If you missed him Monday, when he shared the stage with peers Tim Easton and Mark Olson, you have one more shot this week. John Mann plays the Pour Haus (1481 S. Shelby St., 637-9611) Friday at 9 p.m. The show is 21+ and costs a mere $5.

Friday, Oct. 5
John Cowan is a local boy of sorts. It should be noted that he actually grew up in Evansville, Ind., and probably drank his share of Sterling beer before becoming a mainstay in  the Louisville music scene of the early 1970s. Once here, Cowan quickly established himself as a highly competent and rather versatile musician. He gigged with local rock acts Everyday People and Louisville Sound Department until he eventually caught the attention of Sam Bush. Cowan’s talents were then solicited for Bush’s much-lauded experimental outfit, New Grass Revival.

John Cowan
John Cowan

New Grass Revival is historically important because it combined elements of traditional bluegrass with Allman Brothers-style improvisation, while embracing more general aspects of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. In fact, because of that decidedly unconventional band, “New Grass,” came to define an entire movement and generational shift within the bluegrass establishment.
Until 1990, when that band finally ran out of steam, Cowan was its bassist, vocalist and highest ranking rock ’n’ roller.

Though he is still best known for his innovative contributions in that realm, Cowan has successfully explored a variety of genres over his long career. Most notably, he has shown that his distinctive voice is well-suited to rhythm & blues, early rock ’n’ roll and soul.
Moreover, as a master of the bass, Cowan is as comfortable playing obscure reggae or acid rock as he is backing Garth Brooks on mega-selling country hits. Always a high-demand session player, Cowan frequently turns up in unexpected places.

Appropriately enough, providing audiences with the unexpected is precisely the mission of Cowan’s current ensemble, the multi-genre (but mostly bluegrass) John Cowan Band. Later this week, Cowan and his impressive collaborators return to town in support of their most recent release, New Tattoo.
Catch the John Cowan Band Friday night at the Clifton Center’s Eifler Theatre (2117 Payne St., 896-8480). This intimate all-ages show starts at 7:30 p.m. Anne McCue opens.

Contact the writer at leo@leoweekly.com