Jazz-pop trumpeter Chris Botti is experiencing a whirlwind summer. He’s in the middle of a tour that has him switching genres and musical partners from venue to venue. Then he sets off on a three-concert engagement with classical violinist Joshua Bell, including a stop Aug. 12 at Ravinia, where they will perform with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. And in June, Botti helped to facilitate a marriage proposal onstage between two fans.
The mini-tour with Bell came out of their longtime friendship, which began as students at Indiana University in Bloomington. “I’ve known Joshua Bell since my college days,” Botti said. “He was special even then at an early age, and his incredible rise is accompanied with a tone and grace on the violin that is unmatched. It will be a true honor to share the stage with this amazing artist.”
For his part, Bell said, “Chris is a remarkable musician, and he has been a guest artist on two of my albums, ‘At Home With Friends’ and ‘Musical Gifts.’ Rarely, though, do we get the chance to perform together in concert. It’s a night I’m most definitely looking forward to.”
At Ravinia, Botti will be making his CSO debut, along with conductor George Hanson. On the program will be selections from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons featuring Bell, and for Botti, standards such as “When I Fall in Love,” “You Don’t Know What Love Is” and “The Very Thought of You,” arranged for full orchestra. From Highland Park, Botti and Bell head east for concerts Aug. 13 at the Chautauqua Institution Amphitheatre, in Chautauqua, N.Y., and Aug. 19 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
As for that marriage proposal: Botti was performing at the Rochester (N.Y.) International Jazz Festival in late June and agreed to be the master of ceremonies when fan Jordan Hernandez popped the question to girlfriend Samantha Major. A few songs into the concert, Botti passed the microphone to Hernandez, who was sitting down front with Major. “I am speaking from the heart that my greatest work of art and will continue to be so is Samantha Major,” Hernandez said, quoting “My Funny Valentine,” which Botti covered in 2006 (on the disc “Live With Orchestra and Special Guests”) and is one of Hernandez’s favorites.
“Oh, my God, that’s perfect,” Botti said to Hernandez and Major — who of course said yes. “ABC, NBC, CBS [are] coming after you for that one. Congratulations. For your wedding present, we are all going to wish a very, very beautiful life together starting with ‘My Funny Valentine.’ OK?”