Looking like a well-put-together grad student in a stylish woven black pullover and dark jeans, he slips so unassumingly through the soaring marble-and-teak lobby of his hotel that you might never guess that oddly shaped shoulder pack holds a $4 million 1713 Stradivarius violin.
"It's like having a baby," he says and shrugs with a weary smile when asked about the burden of keeping track of what he calls an "analog Italian instrument." He shifts the strap on his shoulder. "You just accept that you're not going to go anywhere without it."
In his mid-30s (he'd rather not say which side of mid), Josh Bell is determinedly and convincingly boyish in appearance, manner, and speech. His handshake is warm but light - these, after all, are fingers to be protected; they can fret and bow the sweet genius out of Mozart and Bernstein.
A Grammy-winning certified virtuoso with 27 CDs to his name, Bell can drive even the most resistant, tired businessman concertgoer to romantic nostalgia. This violinist whispers precious, aching secrets into the boulevard elegance of Puccini's O mio babbino caro. And he can catapult you to your feet with applause as he "crunches" his bow down hard on the Strad, then springs upright, his back arched, elbows planed outward, to surf the crest of an orchestra's tsunami of sound in the Accelerando finale of John Corigliano's new Red Violin concerto.