Chris Botti can't quite figure out how he ended up competing for a Grammy with the Beastie Boys, but he did get a kick out of finding his melodically romantic CD "Italia" nominated with the hip-hop group's funk-rock album "The Mix-Up" for best pop instrumental album.
The trumpeter never knows what to expect come Grammy season because he's essentially created his own musical genre -- mixing jazz, pop and, on "Italia," even classical influences -- which means his music doesn't fit neatly into any category.
"It's sometimes hard to figure out what the committee is going to do, but I think it's fantastic that we're up against the Beastie Boys. . . . That's something you don't think about when you're a kid growing up in Oregon," Botti said with a laugh.
Botti shares more in common with the other pop instrumental album nominees: Spyro Gyra ("Good to Go-Go"), Kirk Whalum ("Roundtrip") and Dave Koz ("At the Movies)," on whose album Botti guests on "The Shadow of Your Smile." But he no longer can be lumped together with R&B-influenced; smooth-jazz musicians as he was early in his career.
"With my music . . . there's this constant dance that I'm doing between my affection for pop music and being around artsy pop musicians . . . and my affection for Miles Davis . . . and how do you marry those two together," said the 45-year-old Botti.
"I think there's a huge appetite for jazz-influenced music which is melodic, accessible and reins it in but doesn't dumb it down at all."
Whether it was smart enough for Grammy voters he'll learn Sunday, when the winners are announced at the recording industry's 50th annual bash, being staged at Staples Center and televised on CBS.