Trumpeter Chris Botti drops the synthesizers and drum loops of his previous effort, Thousand Kisses Deep, for a more elegant and traditional sound on When I Fall in Love. While Thousand Kisses Deep maximized Botti's penchant for mixing perfect pop songs with his Miles Davis-influenced jazz style, it nonetheless featured many of the electronic and processed sounds predictable on modern smooth jazz releases. By eschewing such "go to" pop-jazz production techniques as drum machines and synthesized strings in favor of the real instruments here, Botti ironically sounds utterly groundbreaking on what is ultimately a straight-ahead orchestral jazz album. While nowhere near as improvisationally adventurous as its predecessors, When I Fall in Love is still a revelation in the tradition of Sketches of Spain, Clifford Brown With Strings, and Wynton Marsalis' Hot House Flowers. Mixing standards and contemporary pop tunes all in a straight-ahead style, Botti gives his minimalist Miles-ian horn sound a chance to breath and be enjoyed on its own. Boldly, Botti swings here with a big band on "Let's Fall in Love," and after years of guessing that he would sound great on a standard ballad, you get to enjoy the proof as he sighs and coos his way through "My Romance" with a plaintive tone perfectly counterbalanced by full string orchestra. But it's not just the standards that impress; he turns the Sade classic "No Ordinary Love" into a moody and atmospheric paean that wouldn't sound out of place on Kind of Blue. Similarly, Sting's "La Belle Dame Sans Regrets" -- featuring the ex-Police frontman -- brilliantly combines hardcore jazz improvisation on a radio-friendly modern Latin ballad. Botti should also be commended for choosing a stellar group of backing musicians including the underappreciated pianist Billy Childs, who adds his stylish touch on both acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes. While Botti has broken new ground in the smooth jazz genre in the past, his rediscovery of his jazz roots makes When I Fall in Love the album he has been threatening to make his whole career.
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