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Life on the road leads Oregon's famous trumpet player back to town for a show


COURTESY PHOTO - Chris Botti has played with many famous musicians and singers, and he never wants to stop touring. The older I get the less (home) matters to me, he says.Chris Botti wants to play trumpet forever. He wants to tour until he can’t tour anymore. He lives in a hotel, and doesn’t even want to own a home again.

It’s not a vagabond lifestyle, he says, it’s just an enjoyment of the life that Botti has made for himself.

“It’s so much more than a passion. It’s my purpose,” says Botti, the Oregon native and world-famous trumpet player.

“I did the craziest thing two years ago: basically sold all my possessions — I was living in L.A. and got disenchanted with things — and vaporized everything, and moved into a hotel in New York. I go on the road with my group and feel, like, so unbelievably fortunate. This is what I want to do with myself. This is my 9-year-old note to myself ... I don’t want to let that go. I practice like crazy and keep on my craft and keep my musicians happy — there’s 11 of us on the road.”

Home? It’s where his heart is, not where a mortgage lies and a couch sits.

“The older I get, the less (home) matters to me,” he adds. “I have an attachment to friends, but not the real trappings of family, dog, cat, a lot of people in one place. I love having my family on the road touring. I stay in nice places.”

Botti, 53, who has played with many famous musicians and singers, notably Sting, returns to his home state for a night of jazz with Oregon Symphony, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30, at Arlene Schnitzer Concert

Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway (www.orsymphony.org, starting at $35).

Botti grew up in Corvallis, attending Crescent Valley High School through his junior year (with the exception of living a couple years in Italy), and then moved to Portland to attend Mt. Hood Community College, where he could finish his high school requirements and begin college classes. Influenced by his classically trained pianist mother, he started playing trumpet at age 9, inspired by Miles Davis’ “My Funny Valentine,” and he learned much from Bob Ernst at Crescent Valley High. But his schooling really came once he moved to Portland and played real gigs at real clubs with drummer Ron Steen and others, sometimes being out until 2 or 3 a.m., “in a positive way.”

“It’s one thing to be a good player in a practice room, it’s another thing to be respected by your teachers, and (Steen) was my teacher in many ways, in how music works and musicians interact and hang out and learn repertoire,” he says. “(Ron) was so gracious and wonderful. He has spectacular energy, a great way about him. It was better than college.”

Botti attended Indiana University — saying the slow pace of Bloomington, Ind., like Corvallis, allowed him to concentrate on music — and then went about his career, which took off and reached global proportions.

His 2004 album “When I Fall in Love” made him the largest selling American jazz instrumentalist, and then he won a Grammy Award in 2013 for Best Pop Instrumental Album for “Impressions.”

He has enjoyed four No. 1 jazz albums, and sold more than 4 million albums. He has recorded or performed with Sting, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, Josh Groban, Yo-Yo Ma, Michael Buble, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, John Mayer, Andrea Bocelli, Joshua Bell, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Frank Sinatra.

On “Impressions,” he plays with Bocelli, Vince Gill, Herbie Hancock, Mark Knopfler and David Foster.

He has toured extensively with Sting, Simon and Mitchell — he and Sting will be playing in Dubai, Georgia, Manila, Jakarta and elsewhere during “my busiest year” of 2016. He has been all over the world, including touring with his own band for the past 12 years, 250 to 300 days a year.

Botti has done concerts on every continent. He hasn’t been to Vietnam and India, but he wants to perform there. “Especially India, I’d love to do a tour there, but they tax the living heck out of people who perform there,” he says. “It’s difficult for foreign acts to go in.”

Touring is his reality. The road is his home.

“I feel super lucky,” he says.

“I’m not a really massively big Bob Dylan fan, but I’ve done many shows with him,” Botti says. “Here’s a guy who has every award and accolade and, still to this day, he’s 70-odd years old (almost 75) and he still tours nonstop. There’s something I like about that notion; this is what I’m going to do with my life. I’m into it.”

Botti hasn’t done another album since “Impressions,” but he plans to put one out in 2017. With his past success, he doesn’t put much stock in putting out an album.

“The music industry, the record business, is catapulting off a cliff,” he says. “It’s changing so rapidly; you put out an album almost out of vanity.”

It’s difficult, he adds, to make money on album sales because of all the downloading possibilities on the Internet.

“Katy Perry makes 9 million spins and gets a check for $4,” he says (perhaps exaggerating for effect). “If you’re a record executive, you love Spotify, that’s where you get paid from. If you’re an artist ... it’s tough for young artists. I have an audience; Columbia Records put me on the road, gave me tour support, put me on TV. Now record companies want the initial flash in the pan, they’re not trying to develop any new young acts ... Elton John wasn’t Elton John right out of the gate. Bruce Springsteen’s first two albums were failures, and he toured and became a superstar.”

In a way, Botti feels his age. He watched older peers such as Glenn Frey, David Bowie and Natalie Cole pass away recently. He was a friend of Cole’s.

But he won’t let his trumpet playing become second fiddle to anyone. He continues to practice at a torrid pace — when not playing concerts somewhere in the world.

“I’m probably practicing more now than at any time in my life, other than college,” he says. “I made a pact with myself, especially since I moved back to New York. I wake up and walk to the music school in Greenwich Village and practice for five hours.

“I made my focus much smaller, I really want to work harder on sound or articulation or putting more content in my brain.

“I want to keep getting better because I want to learn more.”