Jazz musician Chris Botti.


It was Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and that bunch who decided back during World War II that the way to a jazz fan's heart was to play more complex chords instead of more enchanting melodies. By the late 1940s, bebop's high-speed blur had taken over the bandstand.

After 60 years of that frenzy, trumpeter Chris Botti shouted "Enough, already!" Ballad-loving audiences have been grateful ever since.

On Sunday, Botti returns to Centennial Hall with more reasons to soak up his moody jazz dreams and soaring fantasies, stirring in generous helpings of pop charm with symphonic depth.

"I'm just not that into playing 50 choruses of the same song," said Botti, on the phone from New York before he headed off for two weeks of shows in Poland. "My personal path into the music has always been to follow the way of vocalists."

In his early years, this budding young man with a horn looked to such lyrical jazz artists as "Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, some Chet Baker" for inspiration.

"I just love beautiful melodies," Botti said simply, as if that would explain everything.

Since his debut album as soloist in 1995, "First Wish," jazz writers have turned to a whole new set of adjectives for describing his luxurious melodies and moods.

The cinema world of film noir is in there, as well. Botti, with his old-soul sensitivity, easily evokes the many shades of rain-soaked nights that stretch wanly into those wee small hours of the morning.

"This atmospheric quality is what I really love about jazz," he said on the website All About Jazz. "And on my earlier CDs, I tried to marry that feel to the textures and melodies you might hear on a record by Peter Gabriel or Bryan Ferry."

It was Botti's years of touring with the likes of Paul Simon, and Sting in the 1980s and 1990s, that taught the trumpeter how to connect emotionally with his audience in a different concert hall every night.

His album "When I Fall in Love," released in 2004, began his avalanche of successful recordings. Four more albums followed with snowballing, jazz-chart-topping success and Grammy nominations. "Impressions," released last year, won the Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album.

But staying popular in today's music world without radio stations to play your records or music stores to sell your albums isn't easy. Botti keeps the show rolling by playing entertaining concerts, lots of them.

"I'm on the road over 300 days a year. The response of our audience is what keeps building," said Botti, sounding both amazed and grateful. "People keep coming back, audiences keep getting larger, promoters keep asking us to play."

Botti has also embraced popular classical performers such as Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban and Joshua Bell.

"The classical stuff I play is more faux-classical," Botti added happily. "But I just love the soaring cinematic quality of it."


• What: Jazz trumpeter Chris Botti in concert

• Presented by: UApresents,

• When: 7 p.m. Sunday.

• Where: Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd. on the University of Arizona campus.

• Tickets: $30-$70, with discounts available.

• Information, reservations: 621-3341, www.uapresents.org

Chuck Graham is a Tucson-based freelance writer. Contact him at chuck@tucsonstage.com