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Universal Studios Home Video presents

Chris Botti & Friends—Night Sessions: Live in Concert (2002)

"I've, since the time I was eight or nine, been more infatuated with sound than technique."- Chris Botti

Stars: Chris Botti, Shane Fontayne, Harvey Jones, Jon Ossman, Karen Teperberg, Everett Bradley
Other Stars: Sting, Shawn Colvin, Jason Rebello
Director: Michael Drumm

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (no objectionable material)
Run Time: 01h:21m:40s
Release Date: 2002-08-06
Genre: jazz

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A A-BA- B+


DVD Review

The musician is Chris Botti, acclaimed studio trumpeter and former member of Sting's Brand New Day Band. The album is Night Sessions, Botti's fourth and most ambitious solo album to date. The DVD is Chris Botti & Friends—Night Sessions: Live in Concert, taken from an inviting evening of jazz music performed by Botti and his band at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles. As an ex-trumpet player, I can honestly say that Chris Botti's unique style of jazz trumpeting has inspired me to begin playing again after a 10-year absence.

I can best describe Botti's style as a cross between Chuck Mangione and Chet Baker. His music is undoubtedly jazz-based, but Botti's beautifully restrained melodies redefine a genre that is often all about flashy showmanship. Botti's songwriting proves that he is a musician of incredible maturity, as he demonstrates a keen knowledge for "less is more." One of the most impressive elements of his compositions is the attention to rests or pauses, which prove to be just as important as the notes he chooses to play. Botti knows that his trumpet should not always be the focal point, and shows commendable consideration as he sinks into a comfortable ambient groove while letting his stellar band take control. As with most jazz, Botti and his band perform a great deal of improvisation, but never does this overshadow the sense of songwriting; each jam blends in seamlessly with the mood of the corresponding song.

From the smooth and sultry jazz tones of Miami Overnight, to the manic yet melodic groove of Streets Ahead, each composition has its own unique sound. I have always felt that instrumental music tends to sound a bit dry and monotonous after a sustained period of time. Just at the moment I felt the urge for some sort of vocal treatment, Botti satisfied my urgings by inviting Sting on stage to sing In the Wee Small Hours. Sting's sensuous lyrics and soothing voice brought a welcome variety to the concert. Grammy® Award-winning vocalist Shawn Colvin also contributed her unique and seductive vocal style to two songs, including the Sting composed All Would Envy.

This concert led me on a musically emotional journey. The intense mood shifts took me from the highest highs to the lowest lows without ever feeling disjointed or awkward. Botti introduces Alone in the City as a song he wrote about a break up with his girlfriend. Through his subtle melodies I could feel his sadness build into a tense burst of anger, then slowly resort back to a melancholy state. After this musical dirge, the band breaks into the upbeat Regrooveable, a song with rhythms and melodies guaranteed to get one's toe tapping.

Night Sessions: Live in Concert not only provides an exhilarating viewing experience, but can be enjoyed as background audio as well. Unlike many concert DVDs that break up the musical event with extraneous interviews, Night Sessions is nonstop music from beginning to end. Chris Botti and his band are remarkable musicians, performing a remarkable blend of jazz and rock, and Night Sessions is one of the best concert DVDs I have seen in quite sometime. I am certain that anyone who enjoys music will find it a thoroughly entertaining experience.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.70:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The image transfer is presented in nonanamorphic widescreen at an aspect ratio of approximately 1.70:1. While the widescreen image is acceptable, the lack of anamorphic enhancement causes the picture to appear fuzzy and indistinct. Many video deficiencies are evident, especially shimmering along the corners of Botti's trumpet. Fantastic black level and natural color rendition offset these distractions, yet these are the only standouts of an otherwise mediocre transfer. The picture is visually pleasing and certainly will not distract from the music. However, anamorphic enhancement would have helped clear up the image considerably.

Image Transfer Grade: B

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: A Dolby Digital 5.1 track is offered in addition to an uncompressed PCM track. While I was jazzed to find these two formats available for my audio delectation, both are somewhat problematic. In comparison, the 5.1 track is nearly 20 decibels louder than the PCM track, and neither mix seems to have been mastered at an acceptable level. The 5.1 mix is far too loud, while the PCM is much too quiet. I was fully expecting the PCM track to sound cleaner and more robust, but its quiescent nature is sonically thin. When brought down to an acceptable volume level, the 5.1 track is excellent; I noticed no loss of clarity over the PCM track. Stereo separation is fantastic, as the instruments blend seamlessly over the wide soundstage. The bass guitar creates a punchy yet solid foundation, with a tone that is always prevalent yet never overbearing. The surround channels are predominately reserved for cheers, claps, and whistles from the audience. Interesting, but somewhat distracting, is the emphasis on the right surround speaker over the left. These two audio soundtracks are an incredibly enjoyable way to experience this concert. While my preference leans towards the 5.1 mix, the PCM is also good, and a far more admirable inclusion over a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: A- 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 13 cues and remote access
Production Notes
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Interviews
  2. Photo Gallery
  3. 5.1 audio recording of Through an Open Window
Extras Review: Night Sessions: Live in Concert offers a nice collection of extras that serve as a wonderful complement to the main concert.

First, and most disappointing, is a short photo gallery. Consisting of a mere ten images taken from the photo shoot for the Night Sessions album, I found nothing of value here.

Next, is a section of four interviews. The first and second interviews feature Chris Botti providing insightful information as to his style and technique. The third and fourth interviews are with Sting and Shawn Colvin, who express their respect for Botti's talent and professionalism. With each interview clocking in at no longer than two minutes, this is a brief, albeit informative, section.

The Video Profile is an all-encompassing featurette in which Botti answers an onslaught of questions as to his musical disposition, inspirations, and goals. I was quite impressed at how much ground was covered in this five-minute section; I feel as if I learned quite a bit about this talented trumpeter in just a brief time.

The 5.1 audio recording of Through an Open Window is multi-channel heaven. The presence of the music is strong and clean with a wonderfully spacious, yet tactful use of the split surrounds. This is merely a taste of what Night Sessions has to offer on SACD. I enjoyed this track so much that I may now have to pick up an SACD player to enjoy what I have been missing.

Finishing up the special features is a section titled Biography, which is a brief collection of production notes.

Extras Grade: B+

Final Comments

Chris Botti & Friends—Night Sessions: Live in Concert is a fantastic concert performed by an incredibly talented group of jazz musicians. The 5.1 and PCM audio tracks admirably capture the sonic genius of this event. The only disappointment is a somewhat lackluster, nonanamorphic image transfer, but for a DVD based around music, I doubt anyone will find this terribly distracting. This fantastic concert belongs in any music lovers' collection.

Highly Recommended.

Brian Calhoun 2002-09-04