Saturday, November 30, 2013

Yo-Yo Ma, Chris Botti, Billy Childs, Robert Hurst, Billy Kilson, and Roberto Lumbambo Perform Rodgers and Hammerstein's "My Favorite Things"


Divided & United: The Songs of the Civil War was not my only Black Friday gift to myself; I also bought Yo-Yo Ma's MMVIII Songs of Joy & Peace, whence comes the above number, liking as I do quality secular holiday songs as background music during Advent.

"In recent times," Wikipedia tells us on its "My Favorite Things" page, "due to the winter-related imagery in the lyrics, it has become popular as a Christmas song." I had no idea, but it makes sense, and this is a great song from the Great American Songbook. (Plus, The Sound of Music (1965) is currently my ten-year-old daughter's favorite film.) Chris Botti's rendition can't hold a candle, much less an advent candle, to John Coltrane's, but it's good background music, like the rest of this album.

Maestro Ma, despite his great talent, seems best at making background music, at least when he goes beyond the strictly classical tradition. I've been a fan ever since he recorded the works of Astor Piazzolla, and The Goat Rodeo Sessions got some great people together, including Chris Thile. But what of all this travelling the world in search of different traditions and trying to embed himself within them?

Maestro Ma, an American born in France to Chinese parents, is a true cosmopolitan, which Henry James in The Portrait of a Lady defined as "a little of everything and not much of any." He couldn't be anything else given his background, and this background gives him a chance to introduce some good things to us, but he always seems a bit of an outsider, an interloper almost, when he sits in on these sessions (that he organizes with his money and connections) with local musicians from wherever.

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