Yo-Yo Ma might be the most well-known cellist in the world. I suspect that everyone has heard of him. But it’s likely that people don’t know just how diverse his musical range is. As the NPR blurb says:
He’s reached out to a broad range of musicians (and Muppets) to play not just Bach and Beethoven, but also Brazilian samba, Argentine tango, jazz, songs from Sesame Street and a smorgasbord of Asian music with his Silk Road Ensemble. American roots music also figures into Ma’s melting pot: He teamed up with double-bass master Edgar Meyer and fiddler Mark O’Connor 15 years ago for the gentle new-grass album Appalachian Waltz.
For this 2011 venture called The Goat Rodeo Sessions, he has created another Americana album, this time with mandolin master (and multiple Tiny Desk Concert player) Chris Thile. Meyer is back on double bass and they have added Stuart Duncan on fiddle.
I can honestly say I never expected to see Yo-Yo Ma on a song called “Quarter Chicken Dark” but there he is, playing along as Thile begins the song on the mandolin. The cello, fiddle and bass are all bowed so, despite the mandolin, the song feels a bit more classical (Thile has also made classical music on the mandolin, so the pairing actually makes a lot of sense). I think Thile comes off as the star of this song with a wild solo in the middle.
For “Attaboy,” the mandolin starts the song again, but pretty quickly the strings dominate. There’s a beautiful opening by Ma and a great fiddle interplay in which Duncan hints at the big Irish section he’s going to play. There’s some wonderful fast mini solos from all of the instruments, including the bass, and then the whole song switches to a jig with Duncan playing a very Irish riff while Duncan and Ma keep the low notes coming. Incidentally, I believe that Thile and Duncan are playing the exact same solo by the end, which sounds great. But it’s watching Yo-Yo Ma’s fingers and bow move so fast that is really amazing.
For the final song “Here and Heaven” Aoife O’Donovan joins them on vocals. And for a chance of pace Duncan switches from fiddle to banjo. (Although mid way through the song he switches back to fiddle). Donovan and Thile sing the song together. On the first verse they are a little too quiet. But once they start belting out they are fine. This song is catchy and fun and the vocals really do change the feel of their music.
It’s clear that these accomplished musician are having a lot of fun together. Meyer and Ma actually wave to each other during the second song, and Thile makes lots of little jokes. And when he introduces Aoife, it’s funny to hear Yo-Yo Ma cheer like a little kid.
While Yo-Yo Ma if probably the most famous musician here, I like them all, and I’ll honestly listen to Thile do anything.
[READ: August 29, 2012] Space Dumplins
Craig Thompson has created a pretty diverse collection of books. From the serious and beautiful Habibi, to the weird-looking and sad Goodbye Chunky Rice to this trippy sci-fi story.
The story is about Violet Marlocke, a young girl who lives out in a space trailer park. Her father is a space lumberjack (whatever that means) and her mom is a seamstress. They are poor but pretty happy, and that’s okay by Violet, since family is everything to her.
But as the book opens we learn that space whales (okay, I’ll stop putting “space” before everything, because he doesn’t) have just eaten her school. The whales have been rampaging all of the planets in the area. At first Violet is happy to have no school but her parents have to do something with her. So her mom brings her to work at Shell-tar where they try to see if she can enroll in the state of the art school there. She can’t because her dad has a criminal record (and he’s opposed to the fancy school anyway).
While Violet is looking around, she meets Elliot Marcel Ophennorth, a small chicken who is incredibly smart (and has visions of the future). We also meet Zacchaeus, the last Lumpkin in the world. He works at the dump. Violet quickly befriends them both, although they don’t all get along very well at first.
Two things then happen pretty quickly back home. Violet and her dad buy an old piece of junk space bike to fix up and Violet’s dad takes on a dangerous job to make some more money.
Then her dad goes missing–the job proved to be much more dangerous than anyone realized. And so Violet takes it upon herself (and her friends) to go find him. They use the bike that they fixed up (check out the awesome details on the bike, like that there’s an Atari 2006 as part of the controls).
The three go on a huge adventure by using whale poop for fuel. They visit the sawmill where Violet’s dad worked (they get chased by security all over the place). And eventually they meet a giant whale face to face.
Meanwhile, Violet’s mom calls in the help of her husband’s old work buddies who were in a gang together called Battlestar Paintallica
We also meet Zacchaeus’s older (meaner) brother, Zucchinus (and learn how they were the last two left alive). See the great use of dental floss in this chapter.
When Violet sees that the whales seem to be angrily looking for their lost baby, the story takes on a new meaning, and now Violet wishes to rescue both her father and the baby whale.
There are some wonderfully bad puns in the book, like “Gimme Shell-tar” (and when you finally visit Lab-Star you will groan with delight). There are also some great characters, like Elliot’s CHAPERONE (Child Helping and Parent Enabled Replacement Disciplinary Robotic Operation Nanny Engine) (that’s genius!).
And as with any good kids comic, there is lot s and lots of poop. A whole plot line involves whale diarrhea. There’s even an epilogue with a great message (which also involves poop).
Clark and I both found the story pretty weird and little hard to follow at first, but it all seemed to come together very well and once I got used to Thompsons’ wild charters (the whales in particular are pretty surreal), the story was really fun. I’d like to read this again paying a little more attention to all the details in the artwork (and the funny jokes).