gershwin fantasy (1998). john williams joins bell here as both conductor (with the london symphony orchestra) and pianist in an immensely satisfying treatment of work by american composer george gershwin. bell wipes you out in "embraceable you" and "but not for me." he hypnotizes you with the second of the three preludes (in his idol jascha heifetz's transcription). and then he makes a charlestonian out of you in "fantasy for violin and orchestra" from porgy and bess. notice the packaging, which
poses bell in the guise of a gershwin swell. he earns those threads.

west side story suite (2001). this is bell's "leather jacket album" - imagery courtesy of the jets and the sharks of the 1957 broadway musical's story - and he works here with
conductor david zinman and the philharmonic orchestra to offer the perfect come-hither album for the classically hesitant. leonard bernstein's music is keenly led by the violin in william david brohn's suite and gets a remarkably ranging performance from bell. the real bonus here is bell's rendition of "bernstein's serenade for violin and orchestra". if you ever see this on bell's program for a live performance, buy a ticket: as much as you'll like the sheer sonic agility of it on this cd, seeing him match the music's athleticism in performance is even better.

mendelssohn, beethoven: violin concertos (2002). it's on this cd that you can hear some of bell's composition talent - he wrote his own cadenzas (soloists extended, unaccompanied passages) for the famous violin concertos of ludwig von beethoven and felix mendelssohn. in the case of the mendelssohn, this took guts, the music world having come to expect the standard first-movement cadenza created by joseph joachim. both works are straight-up traditionalist fare, easily understood by a listener new to them and clearly a couple of milestones on bell's mastery of the repertoire.