Chris Botti

Chris Botti doesn’t believe in owning a home or renting an apartment. The contemporary jazz trumpeter gigs so frequently, the only place he calls home is the inside of a hotel room.

“Some people say, ‘I live out of hotels.’ But I really live out of hotels. I have one bag, my trumpet, one band, my crew and that’s it – no permanent residence anywhere,” Botti told Pollstar from the road.

Manager Marc Silag can attest to that. In his 30 years in the music business, he’s never seen anything like it.

“He knows that the road is the ultimate place to touch the greatest number of people,” Silag told Pollstar.

At 43 years old, Botti (pronounced B -dee) wouldn’t have it any other way. He currently has dates booked worldwide well into next year, with more on the way.

“Most instrumentalists gig very rarely, especially in the States,” the trumpeter said. “So I’m happy to be out working like crazy.”

When Botti moved to New York City in 1986 to pursue a career in music, his goal wasn’t to be a touring artist. He wanted to record backing tracks as a studio musician. It wasn’t long before Paul Simon caught wind of the up-and-coming trumpeter and hand picked him to join the horn section on a 15-month world tour.

Through Simon, Botti met Silag, who he’s now been with for 12 years. The two began working on the musician’s solo career in 1993. In mapping out Botti’s career, the pair’s main objective was to stay away from specific genres and break into the mainstream.

“He didn’t want to be classified as just a jazz artist or as an instrumentalist,” Silag said. “He wanted to bring his music to as many listeners as possible.”

After Botti had a couple of solo records under his belt, another prominent artist took notice of his smooth jazz sounds: Sting. Botti recalled a conversation he had with the singer over cocktails in London.

“Sting said, ‘Go on the road with me for a couple years and, at the end, I guarantee you’ll have more fans than you do now,'” Botti remembered. “He was exactly right, times ten.

“It was similar to what he did for Branford Marsalis in the ’80s.”

In 2000, Botti joined Sting for two years on the road as the featured soloist in the star’s “Brand New Day” band. Botti credits Sting with exposing his sound to music lovers who wouldn’t normally listen to jazz.

The trumpeter’s 2004 album, When I Fall In Love, finally broke him into the mainstream. All it took was a little help from Oprah Winfrey.

While Botti was touring through Europe with Sting, When I Fall In Love fell into the hands of Winfrey, who quickly became a fan. Following an appearance on her television show, Botti’s life changed overnight.

Chris Botti

“Sting really set the table for me,” he said, “and then Oprah came along and opened the floodgates to people who may have never listened to jazz.”

Botti’s last performance in Sting’s band was in September 2001. Since then, he’s opened 30-plus dates for Josh Groban and is now headlining.

The musician credits much of his success to his worldwide agent, ICM’s Steve Levine,

who says he’s just as thankful to have a client like Botti.

“He’s the dream artist in the fact that he just loves to play,” Levine told Pollstar. “He’s always excited to play in front of any audience, whether it’s eastern Kentucky or eastern Europe.”

Botti’s latest album, To Love Again, features guest singers including Sting, Paula Cole, Michael Bubl‚, Jill Scott, Gladys Knight, Steven Tyler and more. For road appearances, Botti recruited Los Angeles-based singer Jean Jolly. But Levine says vocals don’t matter much to buyers; their main concern is the music.

“There aren’t very many musicians out there – and you can count Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen on their instruments – where, as soon as you hear a note, you recognize who it is,” the agent said. “He’s a very unique talent.”

Despite being on the road night after night, Botti never gets tired of playing gigs. He said that if a concert-goer was to see his show 10 nights in a row, the set would sound different each and every time.

Botti takes his cue from Miles Davis in that all the musicians behind him are serious artists.

“I let my musicians stretch and it’s different every night,” he said. “When I move to the side of the stage, I want my audience to hear the complete characters musically and feel the artistry.”

Botti added that his band members are so good, they can play a venue like New York City’s Blue Note then switch it up, go across town, and play Madison Square Garden.

“They know how to translate from smaller venues,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Silag said everything with Botti’s career is right on track. He’s been nominated for two Grammys, and recently taped a pledge drive special for PBS, which is scheduled to air throughout the U.S. in March.

Botti is also getting more interest from symphony orchestras, which could boost his music into yet another market, the manager said.