By Sophia Dilberakis ©
. (May 17, 2002) óItís a little before 11 a.m., on this sunny
Friday as we pull away from the San Francisco airport and make our
way towards the Bay Bridge. I reach for my cell phone, quickly
thinking back over the chain of events leading up to this
About a month ago, Harvey Jones, Chris
Bottiís keyboardist had come up with the idea to do a band
interview. (Thatís a switch! Normally, itís we writers who harangue
the band for time and access.) Harvey had heard that fans had been
asking questions about the various Botti Band members and suggested
the interview as a way to answer some of them and showcase
And thatís when I got the
To be honest, my first reaction wasnít a
positive one. "Whaaaatt?!! You want me to interview five musicians
simultaneously?! Thatís like going up in front of a firing squad. I
rapid fired off a zillion logistical and technical reasons why it
would be a colossal pain, before I settled into my more rational
"let me think about this mode."
In a matter of hours, I decide, "no guts,
no glory." Okay, Iíll do it, but it canít be a traditional
interview. Weíre going to have to organize something fairly
unorthodox to keep everyoneís interest for more than an hour. Not to
mention, allow yours truly to keep her sanity. (There was a reason
all those Beatles interviews disintegrated into mayhem and there
were only four of them!)
We decide the Emeryville weekend "in
residence" would be the ideal place to do it in a relaxed fashion.
(The schedule called for three nights at Kimballís East with two
sets per night. This meant only one load in and one sound check in a
three-day period. Definitely less hassle for the band.) Via a couple
of phone conversations, Chris and I confirm the time slot and all
that is left is a simple little cross-country flight from Chicago
for my 48-hours in Emeryville.
"Come at 2 p.m. for the sound check," he
had said, "you can start talking to the band as they are setting up
and then we can sit down and do the interview afterward."
Sounded simple enough, right? But to know
Chris (in addition to "is to love him") is also to know that time in
Bottiworld has a tendency to slip. Thatís why the first call I make
upon landing is to the "band dad"óChris Roberts. (Roberts is Chris
Bottiís tour manager, sound engineer and logistics guru. Not to
mention, a honey of a guy. The group affectionately calls him the
sixth band member.)
"Hi Chris [Roberts, not Botti]. Chris
[Botti, not Roberts] told me to come to the sound check at 2 p.m.,
is that time still good?
Thereís a pause at the other end. From
experience, I know what comes next. "You better make it three." A
chuckle escapes my lips. My passport into Bottiworld has just been
stamped. As Roberts and I exchange details, I hear my name being
said in a singsong fashion in the background.
"Whoís that?" I want to know. "Itís
Chris," says Roberts about Botti. I smile. "Tell him I said hi, and
Iíll see him in a couple of hours."
Getting off the phone, I think, "great!"
Sounds like Chris is in a fun mood today. But then again, being
upbeat is his usual nature. By all accounts, the band had performed
an outstanding gig the night before in Saratoga and it seemed like
the high was carrying over. Odds were that the rest of the band
would also be in the same mood. It was beginning to look like the
odds were in my favor. This was shaping up to be a peach of a
Fast forward a couple of hours to just
before three oíclock. I head out of the hotel to the parking lot for
the short three-block drive to the venue. (Iíve got "stuff" to haul
and itís not conducive to walking it over.) Lo and behold, thereís
Chris Roberts in the flesh. After we exchange greetings, he gives me
a timetable update with two critical pieces of information. The
first is that they are doing a "gothic" load in at about 3:30 p.m.
and that Chris has now decided he wants to get a little yoga in
before the sound check. (If you hang around Bottiworld long enough,
you come to know that "gothic" is a favorite expression. It is used
in so many different contexts, but in this situation, we revert to
Websterís second preferred definition of "uncouth or barbarous." In
civilian speak, I interpret it to mean that todayís load in is
"Ummm. So, now when do you want me to
come over?" I ask.
"Better make it three-thirty. You can
start talking to the band then. Chris says heíll get there at about
Okay, fine. Not bad under the
circumstances. Only another 30 minutes to kill. I bide my time by
going back into the hotel and catching up on a few
Finally itís show timeónot for them, but
for me. I walk into the venue and am greeted by the bandóeach of
whom are in various stages of setting up their instruments. Jon
Ossman is actually on the stage waving an incense stick around to
get rid of any negative energy that might have filtered in. I try to
picture one of my corporate clients doing the same thing. Somehow
the imagery doesnít work.
It had been a couple of months since our
last encounter and it was good to see the band face-to-face again. I
do a mental checklist as I look at each of them.
(Note: check the individual band member
bios for additional details.)
Harvey Jones on keyboards and
atmospherics. One of the interesting pieces of
Harvey music trivia is that he learned how to play trumpet
before switching to the keyboard. Harvey has an outgoing personality
with a fantastic dry sense of humor (heís British, after all). He is
also Chrisí comedic sidekick. The bits he and Chris do during every
show are witty and funny. They constantly update them to keep them
fresh. And on the musical side of things, when he and Chris duet on
, itís time to bring out the hankies. Powerful
Then thereís Jon Ossman on bass.
Originally from New York State, he now calls Venice Beach,
California his home.
Jon has one of
the most expression-filled faces I have ever seen when he plays the
bass. I think he actually becomes the bass. On top of that, he is a
fantastic mimic, insuring that you will absolutely bust a gut if he
allows himself to let loose in your presence.
The other transplanted Brit in the group
is Shane Fontayne. Heís lived in California for years and has a
musical resume that wraps itself around the block more than once.
You may know him from his stint with Lone Justice or from touring
with Springsteen in the early Ď90s. Your initial impression is that
he is sweet, quiet and somewhat shy. He chooses to do his talking
via his guitar. Trust me, when itís his turn to solo, you are
transported. Chris refers to him as "The Ambassador." And if you are
lucky enough to get a smile from him, youíll notice he has a killer
set of dimples.
And then we have the youngest member of
the group, Jerusalem-born Karen Teperberg. Her drum playing
throughout this tour has earned her attention and accolades across
the board. A recent graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Karen
currently makes New York her home.
Her musical past includes performances, recordings and
production work for some of Israel's top pop stars. Sheís also
toured Germany and Switzerland and performed at the Montreux Jazz
Festival in 1997 with the successful all-women band Bella
Donna. On a personal note, she admits to being a chocoholic
which makes me like her instantly.
They continue their set up as I begin
mine. The venue is great for music, but it ainít exactly a
boardroom. Time to get inventive.
We quickly clear the place settings off
of a couple of the banquettes and turn them into places for the band
to sit. I position a small cabaret round in front of them,
bandleader style, to set up my laptop for note taking. And then we
bring out the most important component for a great interviewóan
edible bribe. Bottled water, chocolate chip cookies, trail mix and
other munchies. Bringing body fuel to musicians is always a good
I look around and notice that Karen has
walked off the stage and is sitting to one side reading a book. I
quickly walk over to my first victim.
"Hi Karen. Can I interrupt you? Do you
mind taking a few moments to fill out a band bio questionnaire. I
thought maybe we could get this out of the way ahead of time and not
waste time asking the Ďusualí questions during the
With Karen busy at work on her sheet of
paper, I then pounce on Harvey and Shane and ask them to do the
same. Jon had completed the assignment via email and had already
sent it to me, so there was no need to chase him around the venue.
Harvey had been unable to open the email attachment send a few days
earlier and Shane had completed the bio, but had left it at home.
Surprisingly, no oneís dog ate the homework. No biggie. There was
plenty of time to take care of the band bios now.
With the band busy plugging in personal
and professional details, I am vaguely aware that the four oíclock
hour had come and gone. And suddenly, I hear, "Thereís Chris!" I
look up to see that familiar blond head with its beaming smile come
bounding down the side aisle.
ubiquitous trumpet case is slung over his shoulder. "Hi! Sorry, Iím
late," he says, as he envelops me with his usual hug and kiss. But
this time, I notice that he has just hugged me a little more
gingerly than usual. I pull back and look into his eyes. "I hurt my
back doing yoga. Iím in real pain." I am tempted to utter my own
personal mantra out loud. "Chocolate is good. Yoga is bad." But
somehow now is not the right time.
"You know," he says, his eyes all
earnest, "during the Sting tour we were in South Africa for a gig. I
hurt my back so badly doing yoga that all I could do was lie on the
floor. I didnít think I was going to be able to go on stage. It was
just minutes before we were supposed to go on that I managed to
Thankfully, todayís asanas do not reduce
him to a similar state of immobilization. And all thoughts of
scolding him for being two hours late escape as every maternal
instinct in my DNA suddenly feels sorry that he has twisted his body
into oblivion. Time to take his mind off of the pain by showing him
a few fun things Iíve stored on my laptop, as we kill a few minutes
waiting for the band.
"Have you heard
Sail on Sailor
Stingís new duet with Lulu," I ask. He shakes his head no. "Iíve got
a clip downloaded onto my laptop. Want to hear it? Sting really
belts it out!"
He eagerly comes over to my cabaret table
as I play the latest release from one of his musical mentors. The
band and he like what they hear. Shane continues humming the tune
after the MP3 has stopped playing.
"So Chris, tell me
about your new house
," I say to him. The hot personal Botti news
of the week is that he has just ended his three-year homeless streak
by renting a guesthouse in the Hollywood Hills.
His face lights up and he gets animated
as he begins to describe the views.
"The house has several decks. You should
see the views! They are absolutely spectacular."
He is positively beaming and I am
thrilled for him, as I never understood how anybody could live out
of hotels and the trunk of a car for three years.
"When did you move in?"
"Well, I saw it Friday and I moved in on
Saturday," he says grinning. "I got to sleep there two nights before
I had to leave again."
And then, as if anticipating my next
question, he says, "But, Iím not going to get a phone line. Iím just
going to use my cell phone."
I shake my head and laugh. In Maslow's
Hierarchy of Needs, the usual top ranking includes air, food and
water. In Bottiworld, the cell phone becomes part of that cluster. I
donít know how to break it to him that the nightly chocolate square
is about to stop appearing on his pillow.
"Chris. I have another surprise for you.
This one had to wait until we were face-to-face. Dominic [Miller,
guitarist for Stingís band] emailed me something pertaining to you a
few months ago."
Chris immediately starts laughing. Just
the mere mention of Dominicís name and "he sent something" alerts
Chris to the fact that something wicked is about to
"What is it? A caricature of me?" You
should only be so lucky, I think to myself. I open a jpeg and turn
the laptop screen toward Chris. He gazes upon the image and belts
out a laugh. Dominic has struck again. Itís a candid shot of Chris
taken backstage by Dominic during the Sting tour. Letís just say
some items of clothing are missing.
Iím showing him a few other jpegs sent by
friends, as one by one, the band begins to walk over, handing me
their completed bios. Itís the sign weíve been waiting for. Itís
just about five oíclock and the interview is about to officially
begin. Everybody finds a spot on one of two banquettes, except for
Shane who pulls up a chair on the tier above one of them.
Several times, I attempt to explain the
interview format, but the musicians seated in front of me arenít in
a mood to settle down quite yet. My voice is quickly drowned out
with funny one-liners, comebacks and the like. I throw a pleading
look toward Karen who has been patiently sitting there, not
contributing to the mayhem. She tries to help me out.
Finally, they are quiet and give me a
chance to speak. I now have five pairs of eyes on me. They appear to
reflect looks ranging from, "deer caught in the headlights" to "I
would rather be having root canal." I am more than aware that they
have never done a group interview before as the Botti Band. I begin
to silently praying to the patron saint of reporters that it goes
well. I take a deep breath and plunge in by explaining the
"Todayís interview is going to take place
in segments. Iíve tried to design it in such a way that it ends up
being a fun experience for all of you and that it gives the fans
some additional insight into the anatomy of the band."
"Think of the first round of questions as
a cross between the Newlywed Game and the Match Game. Iím going to
ask you a question and you have to answer it in the way you think
Chris will answer it."
We proceed to hand out a pile of 5- x
8-inch index cards and a Sharpieģ to each band member. Shane says
quietly that he doesnít need the index cards. Desperate for buy in,
I say to him, "Trust me. Youíll need the index cards." He takes
them, but you can tell that he isnít liking any of this.
"Okay. Are we ready? Iím going to give
you the first question and each of you write down the answer on the
first index card."
Jon says, "Can we just use one index card
to write down all the answers?"
Deep sigh. "No, I need you to write each
answer on a separate index card."
Within a matter of a few seconds, Shane
hates my index cards and Jon thinks Iím a tree killer. Harvey is
looking at me with amusement, Karen is probably thinking she should
have continued reading her book and Chris wants to know why I am
handing out school supplies. I have definitely lost control.
Correction. I never had it to begin with.
There is only one thing left to do.
The questions have been designed with
varying degree of difficultyómost of which can be answered by those
who are serious Chris fans. I am curious to see if those closest to
him, will be able to do the same.
"Okay. First question. Are you ready?
Letís go! Where was Chris born?"
One by one, the band holds up their cards
reflecting the correct answeróPortland. The interview is officially
"Question number two. When is Chrisí
I figure remembering birthdays is more of
a female vs. a male thing, so Iím curious to see how the band does.
This is the first hint of the laughter that is about to
Harvey: November Ď61
Jon: October 12, 1962 (the correct
Shane: Oct. 7 inches
The band starts rolling around the
banquettes with Shaneís answer. I join in on the laughter. Like the
bridal shower party game where you have to end every sentence with
the phrase "in bed," Shane decides that it would be fun to add
"inches" to some of his answers. I see for the first time that just
below the surface, quiet, sweet Shane is also wicked, twisted Shane.
This is good.
"Question number three. What brand of
aftershave does Chris wear?"
Jon: He wears aftershave? Could have
Shane: Eau de [the next word is deleted
to protect the guilty]
Correct answer is Issey Miyake for Men.
However, my corneas are blinded by the way Chris has spelled it on
the card. "Correct my spelling, will you?" Right now my problem
isnít Chrisí spelling. Itís getting enough oxygen into my lungs. We
are all laughing wildly, as each card gets hoisted up.
"Question number four. Name Chrisí
favorite restaurant in London."
Karen: I donít know
Harvey: Mary Louís House of Pain
Jon: Chaya Venice
Correct answer is Nobu. By now everyone
is writhing around the banquettes in such laughter that I begin to
think that I should have brought adult incontinence products instead
of trail mix to the interview.
"Question number five. What name is
etched on Chrisí trumpet mouthpiece?"
Harvey: "Property of Rick
Shane: Lisa [making an additional amusing
reference to one of Chrisí ex-girlfriends]
Correct answer is Vincent Bach. But
clever Harvey has just destroyed us with his reference to another
trumpet player. Jon and Shane are just simply out of their
"Question number six. What high school
did Chris go to?"
Harvey: One in Portland
Shane: Gothic High
Jon: Sisters of Private
Correct answer is Crescent Valley High.
By now we are all screaming. I feel my tears commingling with my
mascara. I am glad there is no mirror around. I am convinced I have
started to look like Bobo the Clown.
Now we get to the bonus questions. Iíve
given up all hope of adding up the scores. This has long since
stopped being about correct answers and has become all about making
each other laugh. We proceed.
"On average, how many autographs does
Chris sign per gig?"
Shane: 57 inches
Chris guesses 50. But, again, no one
cares. We are refocused on Shaneís unit of measure obsession.
This once again brings on the waterworks and the banging of hands
against the tabletops. We know that this will only encourage him to
"Okay, hereís the final question in this
round. On average, how many hours per day does Chris spend on his
Karen: 1 Ĺ
Shane: 7 inches
Jon: 3 Ĺ hours
Chris answers 2 Ĺ hours. And even though
both Karen and Jon are one hour off in either direction of Chrisí
guess, I award the 25 bonus points to Harvey, just for his deadpan
delivery and humor value. (In the interest of full disclosure, Chris
has turned off his cell phone for the duration of our visit. Iíve
put a gold star in his permanent record.)
With this round over itís time to go on
to the second segment. The band suddenly reverts back to silence as
they watch me reach for a small container.
"Whatís that?!" says Chris.
"Tupperwareģ," I answer. I could go on to
explain that itís a 20-year old Tupperwareģ container that has
survived several moves and lifestyle changes, but I donít think
thatís what he means by the question.
They stare intently as the lid is lifted
and they notice small folded pieces of paper. "What we are going to
do in this round is that each of you have to reach in a pick a piece
of paper. And then you have to answer the question you
Everyone settles into their places and
plucks out a folded piece. The mood has quickly changed from riotous
Describe the perfect
Karen: "This might sound a little corny.
But right now itís going to Israel for two weeks and doing nothing
with my parents."
We all nod in understanding. Not corny at
all in this day and age of political unrest.
When youíre on the road and youíve
suddenly discovered youíve run out of something, which one of your
band mates is likely to have what youíre looking for?
Harvey: "Chris Roberts! Heís the band
dad. Heís likely to have whatever toiletries Iím looking
If you couldnít be a musician what would
you do for a living?
Shane: "I was going to be a guard on the
[London] Underground [public transport system].
I would be a lady of leisure."
If you were being sent to a desert island
and could only take three things with you, what would they
Jon: "Sun block, a pen and a
Whatís the one personal item you always
bring on the road with you and why?
Chris: "Cell phone. And a chess set. Iíve
got one thatís been signed by Garry Kasparov [Kasparov is a Chess
Grand Master and was the youngest person to earn the title of World
Chess Champion in 1985 at the age of 22. Chris played against him in
Times Square on June 29, 2000 in a simultaneous chess match with
Sting and band mates Dominic Miller and Jason Rebello.] I play a
little with Shane and Harvey."
"Okay, for the third segment, each of you
will get to interview one of your band mates." Out comes the
Tupperwareģ container again, this time bearing a band memberís name
on a folded piece of paper. Instructions are "pick one and make sure
it doesnít have your own name on it."
You used to be a professional tennis
player while in your teens. Do you play much these days? Have you
ever played tennis with any of your band mates, and if so, how badly
did you beat them?
Karen answers the first part of the
questionódo you play much these daysówith a "no." But, before she is
able to continue, Chris and the rest of the band give her a stunned
look. "You used to play tennis professionally?!!!" It becomes
apparent that no one in the band knows this about Karenís past. I am
witness to a band moment. Clearly, it also answers part two of the
question. Both Chris and Shane volunteer, "Iíll play with
She adds detail by explaining that she
used to travel to the U.S. when she was eight or nine to play in
professional tournaments. "Thereís lots of similarity between
playing tennis and hitting the sticks. Itís all about the head," she
says pointing to her own.
One of your early gigs was
playing sitar in an Indian restaurant. How does a boy from Nyack, NY
end up playing sitar?
"Although I was born in Nyack, my family
ended up moving to New Paltz, NY which was a neo-hippie college
town. I first heard the sitar at a friendís houseóa Ravi Shankar
record. I was mesmerized. Then I moved down to New York to study
with a teacher and thatís how I got into it."
In the early Ď90s, you toured with Bruce Springsteen. Can you
share a few highlights of that experience?
"Itís kind of hard to just pick one out.
I guess the first time I met him, would be one of them. I was the
only person he brought in to audition for guitar. The meeting was
very high energy. From the first moment he made me feel at home. He
is surrounded by sweet people who help facilitate his way of doing
things. He is a very low key, very generous man."
Tell us about the documentary, "Into the
Body," and the soundtrack you composed for it.
"Into the Body was a film about emerging
technology. It examined the things that are now outside our body and
projected that within ten years they would be inside our bodies.
They were looking for a Ďtechí soundtrack. We worked very hard on
it, but the film was never released."
What makes you happy?
"Iíve known what Iíve wanted to do since
I was a kid. I get to play music with great musicians
throughout the course of my career and I get to make a living at it.
Itís the gratification of knowing that I started out to do it when I
was eight. It takes you on a journey.
Secondly, on a more immediate
levelóhumor! All forms of humor are a great release."
As the band settles into their reflective
mood, itís time to take them into the fourth and final segment of
the interview. These are the group questions. The directive is that
anyone or everyone can answer them.
Do you practice playing your instrument
in your hotel room while on the road. If so, does anyone ever
complain? Any anecdotes?
Karen: Sometimes. No one
Chris: Traveling with this band, I put a
mute in when I practice. When I was traveling on Stingís tour we
were staying at nicer hotels with great soundproofing, so there
never was a problem.
What has been the most fun aspect about
Chris: All the stuff that happens when we
arenít playing. The humor that is driven by these
Whatís the toughest thing about being on
Chris: No tour bus. Airplanes and how
difficult it is to travel these days.
Karen: I miss my home a lot. Itís hard to
put down roots.
What is your favorite song to perform and
Alone in the City
. You get
this certain feeling from this song. Itís not physically that
demanding and it is easy to relate to how it feels.
. Itís spacey and
different every time. I think itís great that we end a high-energy
show with something spare. Most of the time we get the audience into
a hypnotized state.
Alone in the City
. When the sound is perfect itís Easter Parade.
I like Shaneís guitar solo in
Alone in the City
. The funky
stuff is fun but not as personal as the ballads.
Shane: I donít think Iím going to pick
one. I really enjoy everything in the set in its own way.
Chris: We take a lot of risks within the
confines of being harmonically connected. And we catch this wind.
Itís fantastic, but it doesnít mean that the next day it will be the
same. Karen and Jon have parts they need to play. Just like most
rock bands playing their parts. Sometimes itís great and some nights
we can fall on our face.
Jon: I have to agree with Shane. I canít
just pick one. Chris requires me to perform a job, but he has always
left it up to me to do it in the way I choose to do it. The amount
of freedom I have as a bass player with Chris is greater than
anywhere else. I love playing the ballads. Chris is like "go!" And
that to me is very jazz. Some nights itís great and some nights itís
gothic. The show itself is what I enjoy.
What do you observe when you look out at
the audience while you are performing?
Harvey: I donít look out.
Karen: My face and eyes are open. Itís
always about giving and receiving. I feel that when I have a good
night, I get a lot of energy back.
Shane: I look for someone to key off
ofóif you can find someone who can give you feedback to energize
things. Probably their eyes. You can tell when someone is into it.
Usually, itís a moment. Itís so gratifying to see someone in that
flow and to be enjoying it.
Jon. It varies from show to show. If Iím
feeling very solid about my corner of the ring, I feel very
vulnerable on stage. I canít really explain why. I like to engage in
eye contact with people. I almost feel when I am playing that I am
connecting with someone. If feel that when I look into someoneís
eye, you create a weird vulnerability. I will almost always pick a
dude and stare there.
Chris: My whole thing is to walk out and
make eye contact. I did an orchestral show in London many years ago
with John Barry. I had to walk out in front of an orchestra and
play. The first night was horrible. The second night we played Royal
Albert Hall, there was an attractive woman in the audience with a
positive vibe. Ever since then it has been my mantra. It comes from
the eyes and the connection.
Whatís the strangest thing thatís
happened during a gig?
Chris: "A few years ago, we had a heckler
in the audience who said he was a drummer. So we decided to bring
him up to play. It turns out that he was a left-handed drummer so we
actually took the time to change the position of the snare drum. It
turned out that the guy wasnít that bad. The whole point is to make
some comedy out of it.
Also, earlier this year, we were
introduced as Michael Franks, which was pretty funny. [Indianapolis,
February 13, 2002]
And the other incident occurred when a
woman walked up to me and asked me to autograph the front of her
T-shirt. I told her that the only way Iíd do it, is if everyone in
the band could do it do." (Laughing, Chris proceeds to demonstrate
Shaneís T-shirt autograph signing technique.)
We hear you are having a
new trumpet made for you. Can you tell us about
Chris: "It is a custom-made gold trumpet
that David Monette is making for me. He makes Wynton Marsalisí
trumpets. Iím picking it up in two weeks. It will be beautiful
looking. The sound will be a little warmer, a little more buttery.
Itís brushed gold, beautiful and tasteful."
also heard that you are going to be releasing your first Christmas
album. What can you tell us about that?
"My friend, Bobby Colomby, is going to be
producing it. We are still working out the details so weíll have to
save that for another interview."
Your old label GRP/Verve has announced
that it is going to be releasing a "best of" Chris Botti CD this
summer. Do you have any comments about that release?
It is the first time all afternoon, that
Chrisí eyes cloud over. He pauses for a second to choose his words.
"The records I have done in the past, Iím still very close to. This
new Ďbest ofí album is being put out without any input from me. That
includes the artwork, the selections, and so on. They [the fans]
should know that I have had no input at all. If people really want
to check out my music, they should look at the previously-released
individual albums [
Midnight Without You
Slowing Down the World
]. A bunch of
singles strewn together is not what Iím about. Each of my albums
have their own little vibe.
And just as quickly as the cloud
appeared, it passes. I take a quick glance at my watch and notice
that itís just past six oíclock and a little more than an hour has
elapsed. And even though I have a few more questions for the band, I
notice that they are starting to get a little fidgety. I am aware
that they still need to finish the sound check for the 8 p.m. show.
I decide that itís time to end the interview while spirits are high
and everyone appears to have had a good time.
We exchange hugs and handshakes. And
although the formal part is over, the interview takes on a life of
its own. I am staying for the weekend and there are four Botti shows
ahead of me. Not to mention several more opportunities to talk to
What becomes abundantly clear as we chat
in between sets or after the show,
is the genuine respect and affection this band has for
each other and for their bandleader. Several of them mention
privately, how amazingly generous Chris is musically. Chris himself
has commented to me earlier in the day that "the worse thing is to
have a front person and a backing band."
In this ensemble, every performer has the
opportunity to shine. Each have solos that have been incorporated
into the set and Chris makes a point of pointing out their fine work
at every juncture.
Harvey tells me during one of the breaks,
"You know, itís not like some bands where you might say to another
band member after the showÖletís go back to the hotel and talk about
the drummer, for example. We donít have any of that in this band."
He uses another example to illustrate their generosity with each
other, "When we go out to dinner and throw our money on the table,
with this band there always seems to be $100 extra."
I need no convincing. Iíve seen it for
myself and Iím a believer.
As the hours tick away and the final show
on Saturday night ends, itís time for me to say my official
goodbyes. Karen, Jon, Harvey and I have already done so but then I
spot Shane. He is loaded up with soft-sided guitar cases, ready to
make his move. Before I can let him escape, I have to tell him about
the dream I had the night before. In the dream, I am having a normal
conversation with the other band members. When it comes time for
Shane and I to communicate, we do it by holding up index cards. We
share a final laugh while saying goodbye.
And then itís time to say goodnight to
Chris. Again, the hug has to be executed carefully because the back
is still tender. I am cognizant of the blueness of his eyes and the
softness of his cheek. I make a mental note to ask him about
moisturizer some day. But for now a simple thank you for everything
and "until next time" will have to do.
Acknowledgements: Thank you to Margie
Maddox for her invaluable assistance and to Chris Roberts for
helping make it happen. Also to the band and their leader: Chris,
Harvey, Jon, Shane and Karen for their generosity.
Sophia Dilberakis, May
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