As I was watching the first few numbers on this DVD, which was originally taped live at L.A.’s El Rey Theater in December 2001for DIRECTV, I kept wondering where I’d heard this sound before. Then on came Sting to lend his voice to Botti’s trumpet (he and Shawn Colvin are the “friends” who each guest for a couple of tunes) and I made the connection. Reading the back of the box confirmed it: Botti is a former member of Sting’s band, which explains why his music sounds like instrumental versions of Sting’s more recent, duller work.
I’m not saying that was Sting do these days is worthless, but where is the fire that inhabited him when he fronted The Police two decades ago? What’s up with this “adult contemporary” sap? At least Sting can still churn out a decent song once in a while, but through it’s whole 75 minute length, Botti’s performance never inspires more than polite nodding. As mood music, or “music to shag to”, as Botti calls it in one of the interviews found on the DVD, “Night Sessions” does the job I guess, but shouldn’t jazz be more than an easy listening soundtrack to suburban soirÃ©es?
People who are into that and who are not put off by a musician who says he’s into artistic integrity but who prefers to keep things simple and not too out there so he can reach a bigger audience might enjoy this release. The musicians are skilled for sure, and the recording sounds particularly sharp. But if you’re looking to be challenged and inspired by music, you’re better off with Lauryn Hill’s unplugged DVD which, while nominally hip hop or r&b, is more in the spirit of jazz than anything Botti does here.