My Virginal Jazz Experience with Will Downing and Chris Botti

Images by: On3 by Allen Christopher
Will Downing and Chris Botti

I recently had the opportunity to do something I'd never done. I went to my first jazz concert to see what all the fuss was about. 

I grew up a blues girl. My parents regularly had the blues playing loud and proud in our household. Every now and again, my dad would throw a bit of jazz in the mix but he was a 'souled out'  old school rhythm and blues.

I was online broadening my horizons in the realm of jazz music when I came across an opportunity to see jazz heavyweight Will Downing and trumpeter Chris Botti. The duo was scheduled to perform at Atlanta's Chastain Amphitheater.

Images by: On3 by Allen Christopher
I'd heard of Will Downing and got the chance to sample his style of music before the concert. However, I was still a bit of a novice where Chris Botti was concerned. Not anymore.

The evening began with the rain threatening the event but ended in snuggling underneath the stars to sounds made for love. The theme for the night was LOVE. It really wasn't but that's the way it felt.  Before the sun went down, Will Downing took to the stage and had the crowd singing along and eating out of the palm of his hands with songs that spanned his musical career.

With his wide vocal range he went from soulful rhythmic whispers to a deep baritone. Mr. Will Downing took the crowd on a journey with songs like You Sure Love To Ball (Marvin Gaye remix), A Million Ways and Send For Me. By the time he hummed that last note, the crowd looked emotionally spent by the end of his performance. 

But the night wasn't over.

After a brief intermission, Chris Botti took to the stage and rendered the swelling crowd dead silent with the sounds of his trumpet. Seriously. First long note sent a loud hush over the crowd that I'd never experienced. It was like watching a snake charmer but with a trumpet.

For the rest of the night, we were wooed with hi's and low's by the sound of Chris Botti and his special invited guests. Violinist Caroline Campbell had the audience awestruck as she strummed and picked her way through duets with Chris and her solo performance. He later introduced us to Sy Smith, a sultry and vibrant vocalist. The range displayed as she sang and rivaled runs with his trumpet was electric and exhausting. Who has this much energy?

The highlight of the night was the duet between Chris Botti and Sy Smith as they took to the crowd. I was giddy and in awe. By the end of the night, I wanted a do-over.