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Yanni's gargantuan popularity unfortunately makes him an easy target for those who see his orchestrally inspired works as glorified musical wallpaper. But if they'd listen for the whole picture before judging, it would be clear that he brings classically influenced symphonic qualities to modern instrumental music; it's highly charged film scoring, only without the movie. The musical images comprising Tribute and the photos in the packaging come from the famous places that not only inspired it but at which it was performed: India's Taj Mahal and China's Forbidden City. While conventional string and brass instruments lead the way, Pedro Eustache's bamboo sax and Doodook and the gypsy-flavored lead violin of Karen Briggs supply appropriate dashes of Eastern culture. "Waltz 7/8" combines the traditional western rhythm scheme with Eustache's exotic flute improvisation. As always, Yanni plays keyboards, but he's more a ringmaster/conductor of an inspiring, symphonic brew that includes gospel and flamenco (with rousing vocals and an accompanying guitar textured over a mid size string section), powerful violin/funky sax duets (the core of the seven-minute "Renegade"), improvisational trumpet ("Dance With a Stranger"), and an intoxicating weave of an orchestra with upward climbing operatic voices. Yanni and friends tap on another culture on the closing track, the previously recorded African tribal piece "Niki Nana," which features Eustache's percussive flute and a hooky wordless vocal chant from a gospel-flavored, female choir. As we see from the other artists this month, there are many ways to build musical bridges between East and West; Yanni's approach is spiritual grandeur in a beautiful, theatrical setting.

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