Is violin the king of instruments?

“In order for it to stand out, I think you need to bring in a lot of complexity,” says the American pianist Robert Littell, who plays the violin and other instruments on the album and was the concert violinist in The New York Times’ ensemble of violinists in 2013. “It’s not just that you’re playing some music, it’s that you’re playing in a very specific setting and that’s a difficult thing for other types of music to pull off.”

In fact, violinist Joshua Bell, who has a PhD in music theory from the University of Utah, is one of a few violinists playing on several jazz tracks. He even won an Emmy for a solo piece he wrote. A fellow violinist who is also a jazz fan, Bruce Hornsby, also came up with a song for violinist Sarah Tewes, who, like Bell, writes for a major label.

In other words, it’s just one more thing on the list of things that make a jazz musician great.


But it’s not, says Littell, who describes the current world of violin playing as “uncompetitive.” For one, musicians are working with computers more often than not. “The problem now, and always will be, you hear somebody playing violin and they’re playing like it doesn’t matter. They’re going to be taken as a novelty,” he says. The piano, on the other hand, is very complex and demanding. You’ve got to be smart enough to not get caught up with it, even if it’s the best thing ever.

That’s where I am, too. I played the violin in high school but couldn’t get any better: I was an athlete and had just finished my senior year in college. I got to the National Music Center in Chicago — where I was hired — and was hooked when I learned about the cello. I played with the cello section for two years. But I fell in love with the violin, which was a more intimate experience. It just wasn’t the same sensation as the cello.

The US Army’s most prestigious award was just named after a former member of the 1st Division who died fighting for his country.

The Army Medal for Valor, the nation’s top military honor, now honors a former member of the 1st Infantry Division, a unit that played a crucial role in turning defeat into victory at Iwo Jima in 1945.

Retired Lt. Col. William