June 2007

Kellylee Evans | Chris Botti – double bill
at the Toronto Jazz Festival
June 23, 2007Toronto Star StageNathan Phillips SquareToronto
Urban Tales of the Heart & Ave Maria
by David Fujino with photos by Roger Humbert
Right from the start, both Kellylee Evans and Chris Botti talked to us, and we loved it.
In the case of Kellylee Evans, a singer-songwriter from Ottawa, she got right down to business and told us what's in her heart, what's on her mind, and what's happening in her life as a woman, mother, and artist. In a clear and lean voice, she led us confidently through her resilient songs of love and life and heartache, 21st century style.

To me, her songs had the tone and shape of Spanish-styled vamps. They ranged from "I Don't Want You to Love Me" — with Kellylee singing strong and horn-like, and then delighting us with her wordless vocals; to the fused lyric and beat of "What About Me?" — a song about discovering that she has a brother from a different mother, born on the same day; to her fifth piece, which got one man up and on the floor — with both arms outspread — dancing out his own joy. Then Kellylee was on the floor, dancing with him.

People loved it and applauded loudly. In fact, right from the first tune, Kellylee got through to us. She talked to us. She sang to us. She got us on our feet. And we clapped on the offbeat.

Kellylee Evans
In Dave Thompson (guitar) and Kevin Ramessar (guitar and trumpet), Kellylee has two soloists who kept contributing a strong Spanish tinge and deep emotion to her dramatic songs.

Whereas Chris Botti's signature is a long-held first note which led into "Ave Maria" — "Something I wrote a few years ago", he said.

"Ave Maria" was a perfect vehicle for the popular trumpeter's romantic style of melody playing — it ended as a stirring held high note, like the U.S. national anthem, and opened the door for the concentrated intensity of Mark Whitfield's moaning solo on his red electric guitar. Botti re-entered on open trumpet, playing "When I Fall in Love" — where his Milesian tone and tasty blues declarations, then his low/high leaps and muffled tones — showed him to be a sophisticated, lyric voice. Drummer Billy Kilson's audience appeal was at an all-time high. He was incredibly interactive with the piano and the crowd. Kilson was clearly the powerhouse behind the group.

Botti's a quick-witted and cosmopolitan, urban musician. During Jeff Buckley's "Grace", his Harmon-muted trumpet fills found themselves in competition with the chimes at City Hall as they chimed out 10 o'clock, and Botti quipped, "It's turned into a Brian Eno installation all of a sudden". There was audience laughter. At this point, the evening definitely became an event.

In his reading of "Flamenco Sketches" from the classic Kind of Blue recording — and in his approach to "Good Morning Heartache", associated with Billie Holiday — Chris Botti's contained lyricism and love of melody won over the crowd. You could feel the waves of attraction.

The evening concluded with "One for My Baby, One for The Road", which featured stride piano from the talented Peter Martin. Botti was down on the floor and played wow-wow trumpet. Bassist James Genus and drummer Kilson showed the way ahead and — without missing a beat — the crowd clapped along.

Chris Botti
Coda A couple of ladies in front of me, turned and said: "You're a critic, aren't you? You're writing about her [Kellylee Evans]. Well, we really like her, so we hope you write a nice review".

No problem.

The audience was invited tonight — and they fully participated.

It was good music.

Kellylee Evans Quintet
Kellylee Evans — singer
Adam Bowdman — drums & percussion
Matt Lima — bass
Kevin Ramessar — guitar & trumpet
Dave Thompson — guitar

Chris Botti Quintet
Chris Botti — trumpet
James Genus — acoustic & electric bass
Billy Kilson — drums
Peter Martin — piano/keyboards
Mark Whitfield — guitar

We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
• • • • • •
Roger Humbert
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