Personnel: Chris Botti (vocals, trumpet); Bob Shepppard (tenor saxophone, alto flute); Brandon Fields (tenor saxophone); John J. Wittenberg, Joel G. Derouin, Susan Chatman (violin); Andrew Picken (viola); Mary Anne Steinberger (cello); Billy Childs (piano, Fender Rhodes piano); CJ Vanston (piano, organ, synthesizer); Anthony Wilson, Shane Fontayne, Heitor Pereira (guitar); David Carpenter, Jon Ossman, Jimmy Haslip (bass); Peter Erskine (drums, percussion); Vinnie Colaiuta (drums).
Recorded at Renegade Studios, Lake Bluff, Illinois; Capitol, Treehouse Studios, Los Angeles, California.
Audio Mixers: Al Schmitt; Nathaniel Kunkel.
Recording information: Air Lyndhurst Hall, London, England; Capitol studios, Los Angeles, CA.
Photographer: Davis Factor.
The story about there being more suicides around the holidays turns out to be a myth, but like all urban legends, it caught on among the populace (or at least among lazy journalists) because it sounds like it should be true; as trumpeter Chris Botti writes in a sleeve note to his seasonal collection, December, "At no other time of the year is there a wider array of emotions than the month of December." This is a clue that Botti, in acceding to his record company's request that he undertake a Christmas album, was not interested in simply celebrating the season in his interpretations of holiday standards. There have been other such contemplative Christmas records: George Winston's album, also called December, is calm rather than celebratory, and Barbra Streisand's Christmas Memories, released in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, is another collection that takes in the season's complexities. Add Botti's album to that list. The approach, of course, fits in with the trumpeter's overall musical style. Often heard through a mute, his playing usually has an intimate, low-key character, and that is true here, too. Critics have compared him to Miles Davis, and to that one easily may add Chet Baker, especially because like Baker, Botti has chosen to sing here, applying an adequate tenor to Richard Marx's "Perfect Day" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (the latter one of the more troubled of lyrics to become a Christmas standard). It isn't all doom and gloom, of course; there's a playful reading of "Winter Wonderland," for instance. But this is still an album to be put on in the shank of the evening when the Christmas festivities have subsided, not at the height of the celebrations. ~ William Ruhlmann