Yo-Yo Ma's Songs of Joy and Peace

It's the middle of February -- so why, do you ask, am I reviewing a holiday cd? Three reasons, actually:

1) The review cd that Sony Music sent me arrived while we were on holiday, so I didn't even get to open the package until we got back home in January;

2) Alfie hogged the cd for ages;

3) Neither of us realized it was a holiday album until we had listened to it a couple of times and it dawned on us that the untraditional, jazzy "Joy To the World" rendition by Yo Yo Ma and Dave Brubeck might not be a random holiday track stuck into an eclectic selection of songs.

Even though the winter holidays have come and gone, it's never to late to rave about an album like this one, so here's what I thought of Songs of Joy and Peace:

The Basics
Songs of Joy and Peace features cellist Yo-Yo Ma performing an eclectic collection of songs with guest artists ranging from trumpeteer Chris Botti to clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera to singer Diana Krall.

From Sony Music: Imagine a party, a musical party inspired by the holiday season. A party that celebrates the universal hopes, dreams and joy animating seasonal festivals the world over - Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid al-Adha, Kwanzaa, Yule and New Year's Day. That is what brought Yo-Yo Ma together with a remarkable group of friends - some old, some new - to create SONGS OF JOY & PEACE. It is Yo-Yo's hope that everyone who listens to this album will hear a song familiar, comfortable and beloved to them as well as discover and fall in love with music that is brand new.

The Bongga
This album is great! Yo-Yo Ma really chose his guest artists well, and the songs really showcase their instruments. Throughout each song, Yo-Yo Ma's cello weaves in and out, shifting from melody to harmony and back again, sounding as pure and sweet as a spring breeze (see, it's getting me all poetic). The album also comes with a DVD of several music videos and behind-the-scenes/the-making-of videos. Alfie and I enjoyed watching it and seeing how each track in the album came to life. They looked so relaxed and happy, jamming to the music! I'm really impressed by Yo-Yo's and his guest artists' amazing talent, and inspired by their obvious love for music.

The album contains a mix of jazz, Celtic, classical, rock, Latin, and pop styles. I love all the different arrangements of Donna Nobis Pacem, a chant I know well from my days of singing in a church choir, and hearing My Favorite Things always brings back childhood memories of watching The Sound of Music (and on a completely non-kiddie note, I love listening to the sexy notes of trumpeteer Chris Botti-whose-last-name-should-rhyme-with-Hottie), but I'd have to say my favorite track in the whole album is Yo Yo Ma's duet with James Taylor on the guitar, performing a really unique arrangement of Here Comes The Sun.

The Blah
Nope. Sorry. Can't think of anything to add to this section. The selection of songs is so varied that there is something for every taste. Even people who dislike classical music will have to give it a second chance -- and someone must agree with me because Songs of Joy and Peace won 2 Grammy awards this year, including Best Classical Crossover album!

The Bottom Line
Songs of Joy and Peace by master cellist Yo-Yo Ma and friends is a holiday cd that can be enjoyed any time of the year -- and boy, are we enjoying it!

Disclaimer: I received a cd in order to review this product, but no monetary compensation. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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