New Impossibilities

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Barnes & Noble - EJ Johnson
Yo-Yo Ma and his Silk Road Ensemble are on the move again, trekking to Chicago for this live-performance CD, New Impossibilities. It's the latest offering in the cellist's ambitious Silk Road Project, which aims to explore musical crosscurrents along the ancient trade route stretching from the Far East to Europe. Ma gets plenty of help in this endeavor: A thesaurus of Asian instruments, from oud to pipa to shakuhachi, join Ma's cello, producing a menagerie of colorful sounds, and the estimable Chicago Symphony Orchestra pitches in on a few tracks, too. Fittingly, the album rounds up a virtual caravan of composers, including the Lebanese Rabih Abou-Khalil, the Argentine ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - EJ Johnson
Yo-Yo Ma and his Silk Road Ensemble are on the move again, trekking to Chicago for this live-performance CD, New Impossibilities. It's the latest offering in the cellist's ambitious Silk Road Project, which aims to explore musical crosscurrents along the ancient trade route stretching from the Far East to Europe. Ma gets plenty of help in this endeavor: A thesaurus of Asian instruments, from oud to pipa to shakuhachi, join Ma's cello, producing a menagerie of colorful sounds, and the estimable Chicago Symphony Orchestra pitches in on a few tracks, too. Fittingly, the album rounds up a virtual caravan of composers, including the Lebanese Rabih Abou-Khalil, the Argentine Osvaldo Golijov, the Chinese Zhou Long and Hai-Hai Huang, the Indian Sandeep Das, and the Iranian Kayhan Kalhor. Their music ranges across the expressive map, from Abou-Khalil's whirling Arabian Waltz to the whimsical equine imitations of Huang's Galloping Horses, and from the moving lamentation of Kahlor's Silent City to the cinematic thrill of the traditional Chinese Ambush from Ten Sides. Golijov is the best-known composer represented, with a handful of major-label albums in circulation, and his Night of the Flying Horses explores the folksy Eastern European styles of doina and klezmer, starting off poignantly and winding up joyfully, while Long's Song of the Eight Unruly Tipsy Poets is no less evocative, summoning the Chicago Symphony's descriptive powers to the fullest. To get an idea of Vocussion, imagine human voices imitating a freewheeling drum circle including the tabla, an instrument given its due in Das's Shristi. It's a playful cross-cultural fusion that, along with a "hidden track" jamboree, closes the album on a good-humored note. What better way to bring home Ma's humane message of celebrating diversity through teamwork?
All Music Guide - Richard S. Ginell
The peripatetic Yo-Yo Ma brought his hugely popular Silk Road Ensemble road show to Chicago for a year-long "residence" in 2006/2007. It must have been a hugely ambitious undertaking; there were something like 250 separate events related to this cross-cultural project, allied with the mighty Chicago Symphony, the Chicago Cultural Affairs Department, and the Art Institute of Chicago. This single CD, the third in Ma's Silk Road series, is a distillation of what went on, rush-released only three months after these live recordings were made. Rahih Abou-Khalil's "Arabian Waltz" opens the CD with a jazzy, East-West fusion that actually generates some swing. The fashionable poly-stylistic composer Osvaldo Golijov is represented by "Night of the Flying Horses," whose title doesn't quite come into focus until nearly the last minute. Opening with a lullaby that mourns with a Yiddish strain, the Doina takes things to an even darker place until Golijov breaks out in a manic Gallop with a bit of a boogie feeling in the bassline. "Shristi" is a percussion piece that develops some drive and life-giving fervor, while "The Silent City" adopts minimalist trance procedures as it broods about an extinguished Kurdistani village. The Chicago Symphony, led by Miguel Harth-Bedoya, comes into play only twice -- once as an asset, the second time not so fortuitously. In Zhou Long's "Song of Eight Unruly Tipsy Poets" for string quartet and orchestra, the music indeed sounds tipsy and challenging, laced with dissonances, displaying a sense of humor in the bent pizzicatos. In a Silk Road live performance in 2005, "Ambush from Ten Sides" was an explosive tone poem based upon an ancient Chinese piece of program music. But with the addition of orchestrations, it has turned into a sentimental, action-packed suite of film cues that no matter how exotic the instruments, still conjures nothing more meaningful than an in-your-face Hollywood summer pot-boiler. Indeed, a soundtrack quality has been creeping ominously into the Silk Road Project, where the tasty flavors of dozens of cultures tend to get blended into generic smoothies that go down well with the Starbucks and Borders set. But there is enough of genuine culture-clashing interest left here to keep the rest of us involved -- and there is no denying the zest that these musicians radiate when they interact. Keep the last "Vocussion" track running for a joyous unbilled encore by the whole group.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 7/31/2007
  • Label: Sony Classics
  • UPC: 886971031928
  • Catalog Number: 710319

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Yo-Yo Ma Primary Artist, Cello
Silk Road Ensemble Primary Artist
Wu Man Pipa
Chicago Symphony Orchestra Performing Ensemble, Ensemble
Kayhan Kalhor Kamanche
Colin Jacobsen Violin
Yang Wei Pipa
Kojiro Umezaki Shakuhachi
Nicholas Cords Viola
Sandeep Das Percussion, Tabla, Vocals
Shane Shanahan Dumbek, Percussion, Vocals, Caxixi, Conch Shell, Rattles
Lin Liu Guitar
Silk Road Ensemble Ensemble
Joseph Gramley Percussion, Tom-Tom, Vocals, Caxixi, Snare Drums
Jonathan Gandelsman Violin
Daxun Zhang Bass, Double Bass
Mark Suter Percussion, Bongos, Vocals, Bodhran, Cajon
Dong-Won Kim Percussion, Vocals
Miguel Harth Bedoya Conductor
Wu Tong Sheng, Xun
Eric Jacobsen Cello
Qi Lin Ensemble
Technical Credits
Rabih Abou-Khalil Composer
David Frost Producer
Laura Fried Contributor
Roxanne Slimak Art Direction
Kayhan Kalhor Composer
Ed Sweeny Office Coordinator
Unspecified Enemies Composer
Christopher Willis Engineer
Cristin Bagnall Executive Producer
Sandeep Das Composer
Mark Twain Author
Laura Kszan Editorial Production
Osvaldo Golijov Composer
Megan Campbell Program Coordinator
Shane Shanahan Composer
Joseph Gramley Composer
Laura Freid Contributor
Isabelle Hunter Program Director
China Magpie Arranger
John Von Rhein Liner Notes
Andy Russ Producer
Li Cang Sang Arranger
Mark Suter Composer, Contributor
Hai-Hai Huang Composer
Dong-Won Kim Composer
Zhou Long Composer
Edward P. Sweeney Office Coordinator
Hui Li Arranger
Lui Lin Arranger
Xiang Gao Arranger
Wu Tung Arranger
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