I first became aware of Botti’s work back in 1997, when he released his second album, Midnight Without You. That album featured keyboard programming by Paul Joseph Moore of The Blue Nile and vocals by Paul Buchanan on the title track. Since those guys release records so infrequently (five years and counting since the last one), anything resembling a de facto Blue Nile record was okay by me. As an added bonus, I discovered Botti’s a pretty terrific improvisational trumpet player. His evocative, sensual sound has made him a favorite sideman of Sting after previous stints in Paul Simon’s band, as well as with Joni Mitchell and Natalie Merchant.
Night Sessions is his fourth record and first for Columbia. It finds him hooking up with a number of other frequent Sting cohorts, including producer Kipper, guitarist Dominic Miller, and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. Together, they provide the record’s rich, atmospheric textures. Botti’s trumpet is mixed on top, much as a singer’s voice might be. And while the record is mostly instrumental, its strong melodies and subtle rhythms owe more to the pop world than the jazz world.
Botti’s far away, forlorn muted trumpet on the opening “Lisa” is paired nicely with Miller’s pretty nylon string guitar. Jon Ossman’s lightly funky bass contributes to the smoky, urban late night sound of “Miami Overnight.” The energetic “Streets Ahead” is funky, too, with a clap-along main theme. “Through an Open Window” pulls out all the musical stops but nearly runs a repetitive theme into the ground. Sting himself penned the swinging, jazzbo style “All Would Envy,” sung here a bit too blandly by Shawn Colvin.
A few tracks on Night Sessions seem to wander aimlessly though pleasantly (“Best Time,” “You Move Me”) while others suffer from too busy arrangements (“When I See You”). The record works best when things are kept simple, lyrical, and light, as on “Light The Stars,” with Botti’s pure, open trumpet leading the way.
The record concludes with a cover of The Blue Nile’s “Easter Parade.” There’s enough space in the song to get lost in there and float around for awhile. Beautiful.