Classic Yo-Yo is a greatest-hits collection for the famous Yo-Yo Ma, something he's fully entitled to after two decades of runaway success. It's "Classic Yo-Yo" in the sense that it presents well-loved and presumably durable selections from a variety of Yo-Yo Ma albums, not because it inclines toward Ma's straight-ahead classical recordings. In fact the division between classical and crossover pieces on the disc is about 50/50, and they tend to alternate. The transition from Bach to Astor Piazzolla works OK, but that from Appalachian Journey mastermind Edgar Meyer to Brahms might be a bit jarring. A greatest-hits album is a tough item for Ma because his recordings are so different from one another and involve such a variety of other musicians. As Ma himself says in an interview included in the liner material, "Collaboration is the best part of what I do, it's what I enjoy most about being a musician."
Here's the bottom line. Ma is a rare treasure of classical music, perhaps the only musician active today who can connect with a wide public in the way that was second nature to the great instrumentalists of the past. This disc serves as a sampler of his work. If you're new to Ma, or if you perhaps own one or two of his albums and want to hear what he sounds like playing Bach or country-inspired music or tango or Gershwin or John Williams or Rachmaninov, Classic Yo-Yo is for you. As a way of reliving great moments in Ma's recording career it is partially successful. It indicates something of the wonderful breadth of his musical interests, but it is less able to show how well he has realized the musical concepts he has undertaken. Still, several previously unreleased tracks will make Classic Yo-Yo attractive for Ma's confirmed fans. A hauntingly spare duo with bluegrass chanteuse Alison Krauss on the Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts" is an especially nice bonus.