LONDON — It’s lunchtime, the sun is blazing, and there’s not a curl of cigarette smoke in sight, but somehow trumpeter Chris Botti has made the downstairs room at the Pizza Express by Hyde Park feel like a gritty jazz den.
“I want to thank you all for coming here tonight, um, I mean this afternoon,” the American musician says to an intimate crowd of fans and local journalists who have gathered to hear him play tunes from “When I Fall in Love,” his latest album coming out in September in the U.K. (It has already gone gold and remained in the top five on the jazz charts in the U.S., where it came out earlier this year.)
Botti’s midday performance capped a 10-day trip to London, where he has been recording and laying tracks for his next, still-unnamed solo album, to be released in 2006. He’s been putting in countless hours at the world-famous Air Studios, a Victorian church in northwest London converted into recording studios by former Beatle Sir George Harrison.
“You come to these studios for the same reason people go to Milan for beautiful cloth. It’s the best quality in the world,” Botti says while waiting for his illustrious co-conspirator, Sting, a guest vocalist on the new album, to arrive at Air.
Though they might seem an unlikely pair, it’s not the first time the trumpeter and singer have combined forces. The two collaborated in 1999 when Botti joined Sting as a featured soloist on his two-and-a-half-year Brand New Day tour. More recently, Sting sang on “La Belle Dame Sans Regrets,” a track on “When I Fall in Love.”
“Sting’s the greatest, it will take him 10 minutes to nail the tune and then he’ll be done,” Botti gushes, adding that he misses the perks that come along with touring with the Englishman. “When you’ve been performing with Sting’s band and had the private chef and everything, the immediate changes are hard to adjust to,” says Botti, who also weathered the travails of fame when he briefly dated Katie Couric of the “Today Show.”
Despite his obvious affection for Sting now, Botti is not a longtime fan and admits that growing up he preferred grooving to Miles Davis, Chet Baker and Woody Shaw over The Police.
“I liked darker, moody music,” says Botti, who was playing the trumpet by age nine. “When it’s played at its best, the trumpet is not a chipper instrument.”