Cellist Yo-Yo Ma has long been a giant in the classical world, though he has also made a number of recordings with musicians who play other styles. This holiday disc doesn't exclusively stick to traditional Christmas songs, but covers a wide scope of material in a very ambitious manner. Ma opens with a lovely take of the traditional favorite Dona nobis pacem (Give Us Peace), playing both the melody and counterpoint via overdubbing. Jazz pianist/vocalist Diana Krall is superb in a swinging rendition of Jerome Kern's unjustly obscure "You Couldn't Be Cuter," adding bassist John Clayton. An arrangement of Joy to the World features pianist Dave Brubeck, cellist Matt Brubeck (his son), and clarinetist Paquito d'Rivera in a playful setting that works in The Christmas Song and On the Trail. The senior Brubeck's Concordia is filled with spirit in a lively performance with the two cellists. Chris Botti has never sounded better in the warm arrangement of My Favorite Things, playing both open and muted trumpet, with pianist Billy Childs, bassist Robert Hurst, drummer Billy Kilson, and guitarist Romero Lubambo. Ma has previously collaborated with bassist Edgar Meyer (who is equally at home in jazz and classical music), though this is the cellist's first meeting with mandolinist Chris Thile. Together they make an impressive trio, especially in the enticing medley of The Wassail Song and All Through the Night. Soprano Renée Fleming's rich voice is beautifully complemented by Ma, Meyer, and Thile. Having worked with onetime bluegrass fiddler Mark O'Connor, Ma is very much at home with Celtic fiddler Natalie MacMaster in the lively medley of A Christmas Jig/Mouth of the Tobique Reel. Among the other friends featured on this disc are the Assad Family, Wu Tong & the Silk Road Ensemble, tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman, plus Alison Krauss with piper Christina Pato. One track doesn't fit in all that well with the rest of this CD. The Beatles' bland "Here Comes the Sun" has a warm vocal by James Taylor, but it is hampered by its weak lyrics.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden