Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a disc that many strictly "classical" listeners may pass over--not surprisingly, since this isn't really a "classical" recording. However, its illustrious and very accomplished host deserves a chance to show another side (or sides, actually) of his musical life, one that includes informal collaboration in his New York home with artists from pop, jazz, and non-western classical genres--and so he offers this rather congenial hodge-podge that somehow goes together while juxtaposing extremely diverse styles and levels of artistic refinement.
Actually, when you hear the opening track--a fine light jazz treatment of I loves you Porgy, with Bell, pianist Billy Childs, a number of other instrumental players, and featuring jazz/pop trumpeter Chris Botti--you may just wish this group would take the whole program. But we move from Gershwin to Dowland via the voice of Sting, whose slightly strained, boyish quality is overshadowed by the lively obbligato/accompaniment of Bell's violin.
There are hits--bandoneon-ist Carel Kraayenhof and Bell in Piazzolla's Oblivion and Luis Bacalov's Il Postino; Bell, baritone Nathan Gunn, and pianist Jeremy Denk in Rachmaninov's song O, cease thy singing, maiden fair (with obbligato by Fritz Kreisler); Ravi Shankar's duet for sitar and violin, performed by daughter Anoushka and Bell; Bell and Marvin Hamlisch's rendition of I'll take Manhattan--and misses: pop singer Josh Groban's Cinema Paradiso (exactly what language is that...?); Kristin Chenoweth's unconvincing, uncomfortable My Funny Valentine (not her song); bassist Edgar Meyer and mandolinist Chris Thile's weirdly meandering Look Away. But hey, this is a hodge-podge meant to capture the spirit of Bell's "anything goes" house concerts--and in that it succeeds.
Of course, the recordings were not actually made in Bell's home--rather they were made in a couple of different studios, and you can tell. There's a decided artificiality to the balances due to some odd mixing and highlighting of certain instruments that do not seem to share the same acoustic space. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this, especially for Bell's clever, artful, and always appropriately stylish playing.
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com