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Review: String quartet with Yo-Yo Ma wows again on 2nd album

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Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile, "Not Our First Goat Rodeo” (Sony Music Masterworks)

 

 

The success of the first album from this string band in 2011 showed there's a large potential audience for something different.

Because this music is different.

Yo-Yo Ma, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer and Stuart Duncan debuted at No. 1 with their first album on Billboard’s classical, classical crossover and bluegrass charts — an improbable trio. On the follow-up “Not Our First Goat Rodeo,” the group again gleefully ignores genre to produce something that's not merely classical, but unclassifiable.

A goat rodeo is slang for a chaotic situation, and the album title is a nod to the collaborative chemistry necessary to pull off such a high-wire act. It helps that each performer is a virtuoso.

Along with classical music and bluegrass, the set of 10 original tunes draws from the American folk, Celtic and jazz traditions, with strains of Stephen Foster, Béla Bartók and Bill Monroe, among others. Meter, tempo and key are all subject to sudden shifts via 20 strings of interplay, some composed and some improvised. Miraculously the group finishes each tune together.

While the album comes with lots of musical notes, more liner notes would have been nice — specifically, some commentary from the artists regarding each piece.

 

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