At Home With Friends is the new collection of instrumental and vocal duets by Grammy winning violinist Joshua Bell, who is joined by an eclectic mix of guest musicians and singers. Among Bell’s collaborators are Sting, Regina Spektor, Kristin Chenoweth, Josh Groban, Chris Botti, and Tiempo Libre. The album will be released on September 29th.
The covers that Bell selected for At Home With Friends are as varied as its performers, beginning with a tender rendition of “I Loves You Porgy.” The sweet strings of Bell’s violin blend beautifully with the lonely jazz of Botti’s trumpet on the Porgy and Bess ballad.
Sting lends his voice to the sixteenth century love song “Come Again,” a version of which appeared on Sting’s The Journey & The Labyrinth. I preferred the simpler lute rendition on Sting’s album, but Bell’s arrangement is also very pretty.
Josh Groban’s voice makes a good companion for Bell’s violin in the theme from “Cinema Paradiso.” However, it’s my Cuban boys Tiempo Libre who steal the show with “Para Ti.” The song alternates between peppy brass coupled with rhythmic Latin percussion and soft orchestral interludes.
Kristin Chenoweth’s operatic soprano is lovely, but seems an ill fit for “My Funny Valentine.” And while Bell’s instrumentation in “Eleanor Rigby” is flawless, I think the cover would’ve been more effective had he chosen a different singer or recorded it sans vocals. Frankie Moreno’s voice is nice, just not strong enough to tackle this particular Beatles classic. A better choice may have been Nathan Gunn, whose powerful baritone follows in “O, Cease Thy Maiden Fair.”
Thanks to the wonders of technology, you can hear Rachmaninoff himself play piano in “Grieg: Sonata No. 3.” Bandoneon player Carel Kraayenhof joins Bell on two of the album’s instrumental tracks, most notably the theme from “Il Postino.” And Chris Thile’s mandolin gives the elegant melody of “Look Away” a plucky boost.
Unfortunately for me, Regina Spektor’s “Left Hand Song” is missing from the Sony advance. But it will be included in the final cut of the album. Until then, the hauntingly exotic “Variant Moods: Duet for Sitar & Violin” makes up for its absence. Written by Ravi Shankar, the piece features his daughter Anoushka.
I personally prefer Bell’s classical works – such as his previous release Vivaldi: The Four Seasons – but it is refreshing to hear him experiment with style and play with such a diverse group of musicians.
I was not granted permission to share an mp3 and there are no audio samples available online yet, but there should be streams added at the links below before the release date.
Joshua Bell Official Site
Pre-order @ Amazon