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Re-playing the magic of a summer night
on April 5, 2007
After this magic night in L.A. with an all-star cast of guest vocalists, Chris Botti took the show on the road -- minus the great singers -- and on five consecutive nights stopped in as many Canadian cities, including this one. The all-instrumental show was, to my memory, even better (than this original show) because of the extended solos by Chris himself and his brilliant, accompanying musicians.
Botti told his Winnipeg audience that, when he toured with Sting, he was urged to "find yourself the best drummer in the world - and make him the heart of your band."
"So I Googled," he said, "for 'The baddest- *ss drummer in the world,' and up came the name Billy Kilson." Then Botti told us: "What you are about to see, you will not believe." He wasn't exaggerating. The drum solo (I forget the tune -- doesn't matter) was beyond any musical experience I've witnessed since Oscar Peterson last performed here 20 years ago.
I turned to the person next to me and said, "This is like watching a god." At one point Billy Kilson was performing with just one hand, multiple rhythms, with alternating shadings so subtle it sounded like he was using brushes, not sticks.
The entire band stood out in the front lobby of our "Burton Cummings Theatre" and signed autographs until every last patron had gone out into that good night. I wanted to talk to other members of this all star band, comprised of Grammy-winners, including pianist Billy Childs and guitarist Mark Whitfield. Instead, I went straight for Bill Kilson.
"Who are your heroes?" Billy thought about it a minute, (he has a modest, gentle demeanor) and said, "My teacher" (a lesser-known jazz drummer - but an influential artist whose name I can't recall six months later). When he'd mentioned just that one name, I asked: "Anyone else?"
"Max Roach," he said.
The solo Kilson performs on this DVD is impressive enough; but after seeing him 'in person' on a more extended solo, I would urge jazz fans to find a way to see Billy Kilson "live and in person," -- and be prepared to re-arrange your personal pantheon of greatest-ever drummers! Good to see that the Amazon.com editorial review (above) mentions his name and the word "remarkable" in the same sentence!
The "bonus track" on this DVD concert, also happened to be Chris Botti's lone 'encore' here in Winnipeg -- a gorgeous rendition of the Arlen/Mercer classic written for Frank Sinatra. The trumpeter told us: "I worked with Sinatra for two weeks at the start of my career -- when I was fresh out of college!" It was, he said, "the greatest musical experience of my life"
For the Winnipeg audience that gave him a standing ovation, his performance of "One for My Baby" -- ALONE -- was worth the price of admission!