Story by Wendy Anderson / Contributing Writer
Bill Murray recently released an album, “New Worlds,” with cellist Jan Vogler — and yes, it’s the Bill Murray you’re thinking of. Together, Murray and Vogler have worked on the album for years, and it features Vanessa Perez on piano and Mira Wang on violin.
The comedic actor who was made famous by “Saturday Night Live” and legendary movies like “Caddyshack” and “Ghostbusters” showcases another set of talents — one he isn’t usually known for — in his new album. Though he starred in the musical comedy film “A Very Murray Christmas” back in 2015, this endeavor is still surprising.
“New Worlds” combines classical pieces from composers like Johann Sebastian Bach with readings from novels by authors such as Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway. It also features classic songs, including “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair” by Stephen Foster, and a medley from the well-known Broadway sensation “West Side Story.”
In an interview with the New York Times, Murray described the album as “the collision of America and Europe.” That statement accurately describes not only the pieces featured on the album, but also Murray and Vogler themselves: Murray was born in Evanston, Illinois, and Vogler was born in Germany.
Murray’s voice isn’t just heard through his featured vocals but also through narration, which shockingly blends beautifully with the classical and jazz pieces.
At first, you don’t really know what you’re getting into when Murray starts speaking on the opening track, “Saint-Saens: The Carnival of The Animals, R.125- The Swan/ Blessing The Boats.” You almost feel confused — like you didn’t sign up for an audiobook so why are you listening to one — but as you continue to listen you realize Murray’s voice introduces you to this soothing trance, and it becomes a kind of catharsis.
In “Gershwin: Porgy and Bess-It Ain’t Necessarily So,” Murray’s voice catches the listener off guard as it gently eases into the jazz piece and then progresses into a deep, booming, soulful sound — a highlight of the album.
Now, if you’re not a usual fan of classical music, jazz or theatrical songs, you may be surprised to find that you still actually enjoy this album. There’s just something about it. Whether it’s the simple fact that it’s Murray behind the album or it’s the pairing of classical music with the spoken selections that are so beautifully and expertly done, the overall vibe of the album is unexpectedly satisfying, relaxing and fun.
After listening to this unlikely collaboration between Vogler and Murray, only one conclusion can be reached: Murray is a true Renaissance man.
Murray and Vogler are taking their music on the road, kicking off the North American tour with a performance in Santa Barbara, California, at the Granada Theatre on Oct. 6. Their performances will run until Dec. 4.
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