Hard on the heels of the release of their new album, Appalachian Journey, the classical/country crossover trio of violinist Mark O'Connor, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and bassist Edgar Meyer are taking their show on the road.
To promote the heavily bluegrass-oriented album, the musicians are embarking on a 14-city tour that kicks off on Thursday (March 30) in where else? Nashville.
"I think there's just a lot in common between a lot of different types of music," the Nashville-based Meyer said on Wednesday. "I think more of it is actually the same than it is different."
Appalachian Journey comes four years after the trio's chart-topping crossover collaboration, Appalachia Waltz.
Like its predecessor, the new country-meets-classical CD mainly features compositions by O'Connor and Meyer. There's also an instrumental offering by singer/songwriter James Taylor and two traditional Stephen Foster ballads sung separately by Taylor and country superstar Alison Krauss.
"As a writer and musician, my main influence tends to be the 18th- and 19th-century classical composers," said Meyer, who's performed and recorded classical and country music and who is featured on a 1996 recording of Schubert's Trout Quintet with cellist Ma.
"But I certainly wouldn't label this as a 'classical' group," Meyer said. "I would just point out that there are elements that are very classical and are very, very influenced by classical music."
Crossover collaborations such as Appalachian Journey have become de rigueur of late. These days you can see concerts featuring minimalist maverick Terry Riley with the Brit-pop band Pulp; or metal-based Metallica with the San Francisco Symphony. Avant rockers Sonic Youth interpreted the conceptual experiments of composer John Cage on their recent album, SYR4, and hip-hop mixmaster DJ Spooky spun his own version of Come Out by modern minimalist Steve Reich.
But Meyer hopes that people will view such works more on a case-by-case basis than simply lumping them all into one giant "crossover" category.
"I think that people just need to see what it is each time, one person at a time," he said. "They need to see if it has merit, if it's something they enjoy and that moves them or not. But it's risky to presuppose too much just because something fits a certain description."
A case in point is O'Connor's title song from Appalachia Waltz, which is deeply rooted in the American bluegrass tradition but which Ma also performs solo in his classical recitals.
"We live in such different worlds," O'Connor wrote in the liner notes to Appalachian Journey, "but we come together, and when we're done, we leave with the sense that things are a lot closer than even we thought.
"On Appalachia Waltz, we were asking the question, 'what would it sound like if we put our three voices together?' Now, with Appalachian Journey, we have a fourth sound our group sound. It sounds like no other group."
Although Meyer, Ma and O'Connor have no immediate plans to work on another project together, Meyer hopes that the threesome will always keep the lines of communication open.
"I'd always be excited to do something with them," Meyer said. "These are a couple of really amazing personalities and musicians, and I'm pretty thrilled to have any conversation musical or otherwise with either of them."
Yo-Yo Ma, Mark O'Connor, Edgar Meyer tour dates:
March 30; Nashville, Tenn.; Grand Ole Opry
April 1; Los Angeles, Calif.; UCLA
April 2; Berkeley, Calif.; Zellerbach Hall
April 3; Chicago Ill.; Orchestra Hall
April 4; Washington, D.C.; Constitution Hall
April 5; New York, N.Y.; Avery Fisher Hall
April 8; Dusseldorf, Germany; Concert House
April 9; Vienna, Austria; Concert House
April 10; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Concertgebouw
April 11; London, Great Britain; Barbican Hall
April 12; Paris, France; La Cigale
April 28; Boston, Mass.; Sanders Theater
May 11; Taipei, Taiwan; Taipei Festival
May 14; Tokyo, Japan; Suntory Hall