Album Remarks & Appraisals:
With Musical Gifts, world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell imagines friends coming to his home during the holiday and joining in on songs that celebrate the warmth, beauty and magic of the season.
Following the concept of his critically acclaimed 2009 album, At Home with Friends, Bell is paired with a variety of special guests including Gloria Estefan, Alison Krauss, Kristin Chenoweth, saxophonist Chris Botti, jazz greats Chick Corea and Branford Marsalis, opera stars Placido Domingo and Renée Fleming, Michael Feinstein and a cappella group Straight No Chaser. "I wanted to capture the feeling and celebration of the holidays and that spirit of December," says Bell. Musical Gifts combines Bell's distinctive violin playing with fresh new takes on popular holiday songs.
"I love the idea of celebrating music in ways different from how it was originally written, bringing in new arrangements and creating new repertoire."
Audio Mixer: Richard King .
Editor: Brian Losch.
Photographers: David Bean; Julia Wesely; David Black ; David Lai; Robert Ascroft; Jimmy Asnes; Laura Crosta; Randee St. Nicholas; C. Taylor Crothers; Jordan Baptiste; Gabriel Isserlis.
Grammy Award-winning violinist Joshua Bell's first holiday record is a star-studded affair. Highlights include the Rob Moose-arranged "Let It Snow," which commences as a Gypsy violin solo, then bursts into swing à la Stéphane Grappelli/Django Reinhardt as Bell duets with classical guitarist Julian Lage. Alison Krauss lends her voice to a stirring reading of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," while Frankie Moreno's piano and vocal adorn the Great American Songbook era tune "I Want an Old-Fashioned Christmas," written by Fay Foster. Another instrumental highlight is the Jewish song "Baal Shem: Simhat Torah (Rejoicing)," performed as a trio with Steven Isserlis on cello and pianist Sam Haywood. The tune has been reimagined here; it was originally composed for violin and piano. "Christmas Confusion" is actually a radically revisioned medley that embodies four holiday favorites including "The Dreidel Song," "Hava Nagila," "Silent Night," and "Jingle Bells," with pianist Richard Hyung-ki Joo and violinist/arranger Aleksey Igudesman. Michael Feinstein's trademark vocals are featured in another Great American Songbook reading of "The Secret of Christmas," composed by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. "A Christmas Auld Lang Syne" is given the Latin treatment by arranger Jorge Gomez, and a stellar performance by Gloria Estefan and Tiempo Libre. Chick Corea duets with Bell on "Greensleeves," while Branford Marsalis is heard with the violinist on the all-season hymn "Amazing Grace."
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