Sting, Regina Spektor, Josh Groban and jazz trumpeter Chris Botti are among the guests who join violin virtuoso Joshua Bell on his new album, "At Home With Friends." The sixteen song set, which also features appearances by Dave Grusin and Anoushka Shankar, was born out of the informal jam sessions Bell regularly holds at his house. Due September 29 on Sony Classical, Bell shows off a wide range of styles, from jazz to classical to Appalachian-inspired instrumentals, as well as dipping into opera, Latin influences and pop music.
"I called it that to reflect the evenings that I try to organize at home- I like eclectic evenings of music; salon type evenings," Bell tells Billboard.com. He recently converted his Manhattan home to accommodate these types of gatherings and on "At Home With Friends," he's taken that concept and incorporated it into the record's feel. "I think the arrangements are quite intimate," he says. "They're not big orchestral things. Generally, the idea is that if I could get all these guys free in an evening, we could do it all acoustical."
Also joining him is Broadway/television actress Kristin Chenoweth ("Wicked," "Pushing Daisies") on "My Funny Valentine," bassist Edgar Meyer and Nickel Creek alum Chris Thile on "Look Away," and sitar player Shankar on "Variant Moods: Duet for Sitar and Violin," which was written for them by Shankar's father, the influential Indian composer/sitar player Ravi Shankar. Bell is joined by Sting on "Come Again," which first made an appearance on the Police main-man's 2006 solo album, "Songs from the Labyrinth."
It's no surprise that Bell's talents would be easily supported by such a diverse cast. A multiple Grammy winner, Bell has become one of the most sought after violinists in the world. He recently won the Avery Fisher Prize given to outstanding classical instrumentalists by Lincoln Center and has appeared as the feature violinist on several major film soundtracks, including 2009's "Angels & Demons" and the Oscar winning score for 1998's "The Red Violin." Bell was also the subject of a recent Pulitzer Prize-winning feature (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html ) by Washington Post writer Gene Weingarten, where Bell played - dressed down - for commuters outside the L'Enfant Plaza Metro Stop.
Still, with such diversity for a musician that is largely known for his ability to pack Carnegie Hall, he concedes that the record's sound showcases the wide range that the violin is capable of. "I wasn't set out to do fifteen things as different as possible," he says. "The only common thread is the violin."
Here is the track lists for "At Home With Friends":
"I Loves You Porgy" (with Chris Botti)
"Come Again" (with Sting)
"Oblivion" (with Carel Kraayenhof)
"Cinema Paradiso" (with Josh Groban)
"Para Tí" (with Tiempo Libre)
"My Funny Valentine" (with Kristin Chenoweth)
"Maybe So" (with Edgar Meyer, Sam Bush and Mike Marshall)
"Grieg: Sonata No. 3" (with Sergei Rachmaninoff)
"Eleanor Rigby" (with Frankie Moreno)
"O, Cease Thy Maiden Fair" (with Nathan Gunn)
"Il Postino" (with Carel Kraayenhof)
"Left Hand Song" (with Regina Spektor)
"Chovendo Na Roseira" (with Dave Grusin)
"Look Away" (with Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile)
"Variant Moods: Duet for Sitar & Violin" (with Anoushka Shankar)
"I'll Take Manhattan" (with Marvin Hamlisch)