On Saturday night August 2nd two heavyweights in their respective musical genres, graced the stage at Chastain Park. R&B crooner Will Downing and trumpeter Chris Botti made for a night of musical polar opposites. On one end of the spectrum you have Will Downing, who as he said, queued it up for all the guys, with his sexy love ballads; on the other end of the spectrum was Chris Botti, whose sultry horn ranged from up-beat, to jazz, to symphonic. At the end of the day, a good time was had by all.
As I watched the crowd during Will Downing’s opening performance, I got the feeling that many of the attendees were there primarily to see headliner Chris Botti, and didn’t particularly care who the opening act was. But midway through his performance, I noticed heads that had been still, beginning to bob up and down; and who could blame them? Will did wonderful covers ranging from Marvin Gaye (You Sure Love To Ball) to Angela Bofill (I Tried); in between, he sprinkled in some Michael Jackson and Atlantic Starr as well. Will performed some of his standards as well as cuts from his latest CD.
By the time Will left the stage, you could tell he had made some new fans …. and isn’t that what it’s all about?
World renowned trumpeter Chris Botti had the crowd eating out of his hands from the moment he stepped on the stage and acknowledged Atlanta as one of the cities with the highest musical I.Q.’s in the world. I have to admit, I am somewhat of a Chris Botti snob — I think he is an absolute virtuoso in the purest sense of the word. From his posture while playing, to his range on his instrument, to his stage presence, interaction with the audience, willingness to acknowledge band members (pianist Taylor Eikstine and drummer Billy Kilson), sharing the stage with guest artists (vocalists Sy Smith and George Comsky, and violinist extraordinaire Caroline Campbell), I could go on, but I think you get the message.
Botti’s willingness to engage the audience, share musical anecdotes from his travels around the globe, and leave the stage to play his horn while walking thru the audience was a real contrast to Downing (who could have been arrested for loitering on stage during a performance). I last saw Botti perform in Las Vegas a few years ago — he hit a home run then, and hit another on this night in Atlanta.
Despite the 10 minutes of rain that visited during the Downing performance, the evening was fantastic, and both artists gave the audience it’s monies worth — a great show given by two talented professionals.