Meet the new Turtles!

Turtle Island Quartet Revitalizes Group With Two New Members

[For immediate release: April 17, 2012] After years of great performances and Grammy®award-winning music, Mads Tolling and Jeremy Kittel will be leaving Turtle Island Quartet. Both having spent several fruitful years in TIQ, are ready and wanting to move on to pursue their solo careers. David Balakrishnan and Mark Summer wish them the best and are excited to introduce their two new members into the group.

“No doubt about it, it’s a big challenge to go through membership change in Turtle Island,” said TIQ founder David Balakrishnan. “The premise of the group requires string players with professional level ability in both jazz and classical music traditions. The quartet is powerful enough to encapsulate these periodic changes, grow and evolve.”

Time and again, Turtle Island has discovered new and exciting talent and they began to see an unexpected benefit to this change, new players would invariably “bring with them a heady breath of fresh cross genre air,” that in hindsight has proven absolutely vital to keeping the quartet vibrant and alive, again due to the manifold implications contained in the defining premise of the group–four string musicians all equally adept in both classical and jazz.

In this exciting new light, Turtle Island Quartet announces the addition of Polish violinist Mateusz Smoczynski and German violist Benjamin von Gutzeit who will both be joining the group full time in the Fall of 2012. The change in personnel will allow for cross-fertilization of new ideas, sounds and emotion. The group continues to reach new heights and with the new members plan to achieve even more.

Future projects include Poets & Prayers with jazz vocalist Tierney Sutton and Louisiana Story with renowned Cajun fiddler Michael Doucet.

Mateusz Smoczynski (violin) is a graduate of the Frederic Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw, Poland. A student of Andrzej Gebski, he made his jazz debut in 1999 in Jazz Camping Kalatowki with the Jacek Namyslowski Quintet. Mateusz has collaborated with such renowned Polish musicians as Urszula Dudziak, Tomasz Stanko, Krzesimir Debski, Zbigniew Namyslowski and Jaroslaw Smietana. Together with Joachim Kuhn, Janusz Stefanski and Bronislaw Suchanek, he took part in the premiere of legendary jazz violinist Zbigniew Seifert’s Jazz Concerto for Violin, Symphony Orchestra and Rhythm section. Mateusz leads his own quintet with which he recorded his first CD “Inspirations”, dedicated to his two biggest music influences, John Coltrane and Zbigniew Seifert. After the success of his first album in 2007, Mateusz received the Minister of Culture and National Heritage Scholarship, and in June 2008 was awarded “Jazz Oscar” in the category “Music Lovers’ Hope of 2007″. In 2008, his second recording “Expressions” was released to popular acclaim. In 2009, Mateusz formed a band with his brother Jan on Hammond organ and the Russian drum star Alexander Zinger called “New Trio”. In 2010 they released their first CD “Simultaneous Abstractions” which was nominated for “Best Recording Debut of the Year” for a Fryderyki award (“the Polish Grammy”). That same year Mateusz co-founded the Atom String Quartet, the very first Polish jazz string quartet. They have recorded two CDs, “Fade In” and “Places”, and received first prize for the “Bielska Zadymka Jazzowa” Competition, the most important jazz competition in Poland. The Atom Quartet was also nominated in 2012 for a Fryderyki award. In 2011, Mateusz had the opportunity to play with pianist Richie Beirach, trumpeter Ack van Rooyen, bassist Glen Moore, and drummer Janusz Stefanski, performing at the “Zbigniew Seifert in Memoriam-Berlin” Festival.

Benjamin von Gutzeit (viola) was born into a musical family. His father is the director of the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria and one of his sisters recently became the principal cellist of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. Benjamin began playing the viola at the age of 4, beginning first on a very small violin that was outfitted with viola strings. Taught by his father until he turned 12, he then studied with Emile Cantor, the viola player of the Orpheus String Quartet. In 1992 and 1994 he won first prize in the final of the German youth Competition Jugend Musiziert; the 1994 win led to a concert tour in Japan performing in a string quartet at the age of 12. When he turned 15, he developed an interest in popular music as well and started to play the electric bass in jazz bands. In 1997, he studied for one year as a student at the Bruckner Conservatory in Linz. In 2001 he began his jazz studies with Jazz violinist Andi Schreiber from Vienna, later moving to the Netherlands in 2004 to study jazz at the Conservatory of Amsterdam with Dutch saxophone icon Ferdinand Povel and guitarist Jesse van Ruller. While living in Holland, he took an active part in the Dutch jazz and improvised music scene and performed on numerous festivals such as the famed North Sea Jazz Festival. In 2010 he was awarded a full scholarship to attend the Manhattan School of Music, where he has pursued his Masters degree with a graduation date of May 2012. He has worked with teachers Phil Markowitz, Garry Dial and John Riley. Benjamin has performed and recorded with many great musicians including jazz violinist Mark Feldman, electronic music virtuoso Matthew Herbert, cellist Ernst Reijseger, composer and bandleader Martin Fondse and jazz saxophonist Dave Liebman.
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