Multiple Grammy-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma has a celebrity status and appeal that stretch far beyond fans of classical music. His success is due to a willingness to try new things, a genuine wish to share what he enjoys, plus a mastery of his instrument that comes through regardless of the musical style.
Following the success of the Grammy award-winning album ‘The Goat Rodeo Sessions’, Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile return with their sensational new album ‘Not Our First Goat Rodeo’. ‘Not Our First Goat Rodeo’ combines the talents of the four solo artists, each a Grammy Award- winning talent in his own right, to create a singular sound that’s part composed, part improvised, and uniquely American. The music featured in this stunning album is so complex to pull off that the group likens it to a goat rodeo — an aviation term for a situation in which 100 things need to go right to avoid disaster. Both the first album and the new recording also feature the voice and artistry of singer-songwriter and fellow Grammy Award-winner Aoife O’Donovan, who joins the group as a guest on ‘Not Our First Goat Rodeo’.
Inspired by a general love of the tango, and more specifically the tango of Astor Piazzolla, on the part of Yo-Yo Ma, the Soul of the Tango album is a masterful work of the nuevo tango, played by Ma's cello and many of Piazzolla's former associates. Piazzolla's old guitarists Sergio and Odair Assad even showed up to work on a pair of tracks arranged by Sergio: the Tango Suite (consisting of Andante and Allegro). The sheer beauty of one of Piazzolla's tangos is generally enough to warrant the purchase of an album involving them. An album such as this one, where all of the songs (save one: Tango Remembrances, where Ma plays along with outtakes from Piazzolla's recording of The Rough Dancer and the Cyclical Night album) are compositions by Piazzolla is even better. Add to this the masterful playing of Ma, and the surprising facility in which the cello fits into the tango, and you've got what could become a classic album, if only it weren't on the classical label from Sony.
One of the most obscure albums Covay cut, Funky Yo Yo slipped out in 1977 on the tiny Versatile label, with such little notice that it's even escaped getting listed in some discographies. It's a strange record, too, with production so sparse (and some dull muffle to the sound fidelity, though it's not a serious impediment) that one suspects these might be demos, or perhaps not even 1977 recordings. Yet in a way that very rootsy, stripped-down feel makes it appealing, particularly as it was appearing at a time when many fellow soul greats of Covay's generation were issuing bloated, hopeless attempts to jump on the disco bandwagon. Far from emulating Barry White, Covay sounds rather like Van Morrison on much of this material, though the similarity's probably coincidental. Particularly on the more bare-bones arrangements, these actually have a cool intimate feel, as if they're songwriter demos intended for pitches to '60s Atlantic recording artists.
Over the last three or four years, Yo-Yo Ma has been exploring the peaks of the cello repertory in a quickly growing series of LPs. Those disks, in turn, have helped establish him not only as one of the finest cellists of his generation… The Kabalevsky…boasts a melancholy central Largo with the kind of long, arching cello line that allows Mr. Ma to display his rich sound.