Apr 25, 2013 News
Quite a weekend! David here, reporting back from the field, doing my American Kirtan thing in Utah for 50,000 screaming Mormon kids at the Holi Festival of colors, a hindu holiday celebrating my namesake, lord Krishna. Evidently the church tolerates this sort of thing, who knew!?
I performed with some dear friends and very talented musicians: the group, Mukti, which is a Sanskrit word meaning liberation. Mukti is led by Kirtan singer Prajna Vieira, who has done a lot of notable work in this fast growing genre. We performed together for this amazing crowd–quite a sight to behold.
Feb 21, 2013 News
ENSEMBLE TO PERFORM WORLD PREMIERE AT WSU
by Shelley Williams | February 21, 2013
In a world premiere starting at Weber State University, the Turtle Island Quartet is pairing up with Michael Doucet. Doucet is a Cajun artist who has been recognized by the National Heritage Fellowship and National Endowment for the Arts for earmarking classic folk music, incorporating Western swing, 1930s string band music and bluegrass, as well as Creole and Cajun gypsy jazz styles together.
This world premiere ensemble will explore even more, including Afro-Cajun and Cubano influences. The Turtle Island Quartet is no stranger to combining styles or awards: two Grammy nominations and awards for Best Classical Crossover Album for “4 + Four” (2006) and “A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John Coltrane“ (2008).
Doucet has his own touring band named BeauSoleil. Mark Summer, one of the founding members of the Turtle Island Quartet, said the actual commitment to doing a tour with Doucet started about a year and half ago. READ MORE
Feb 13, 2013 News
Turtle Island Quartet is debuting a new collaborative program with the amazing dance company Luna Negra. We met up recently for some rehearsals in advance of the show at the Harris Theater in Chicago on March 9.
Luna Negra and Turtle Island Quartet
Turtle Island Quartet is featured on North Country Public Radio! David Balakrishnan talks about Jimi Hendrix, being “alternative” and TIQ’s collaboration with Luna Negra. Listen Here!
Jan 23, 2013 News
“Turtle Island Quartet. dance theater plan world premiere performance in Potsdam”
POTSDAM – Community Performance Series is set to present a weekend of arts innovation, as two world-renowned ensembles join forces for a world premiere blending live musical performance and dance, followed by an exploration of Jimi Hendrix’s music — by a string quartet.
Luna Negra Dance Theater will collaborate with the Turtle Island Quartet for a world-premiere performance at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 in the Sara M. Snell Music Theater at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music.
The Turtle Island Quartet will then perform their “Have You Ever Been…?” program celebrating the music of Jimi Hendrix, at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 2 in Crane’s Helen M. Hosmer Concert Hall. The pre-concert lecture for this event features a member of the quartet, and will begin at 6:30 p.m.
The Jan. 31 performance will feature a world-premiere piece by Spanish choreographer Fernando Hernando Magadan, with an encore performance on Feb. 1. Magadan’s newest work will be accompanied by live music by the Turtle Island Quartet. Additional dance pieces will include “The Naked Ape,” also choreographed by Magadan, and “18+1,” which was choreographed by Luna Negra Artistic Director Gustavo Ramírez Sansano.
Founded in 1999 by Cuban-born dancer and choreographer Eduardo Vilaro, the Luna Negra Dance Company celebrates the rich Latino culture and is well known for its exceptional choreography, intensive educational programs and electrifying performances. Based in Chicago, Luna Negra calls the Harris Theater in Millennium Park home and has become an integral part of Chicago’s cultural community. The company has toured both across the U.S. and around the globe. According to the Boston Globe, “the troupe’s nine members dance as if it’s the last night on Earth.”
The Turtle Island Quartet’s Feb. 2 performance of “Have You Ever Been…?” will feature the ensemble’s arrangements of works by legendary guitarist, songwriter and performer Jimi Hendrix. The program will also feature compositions reflective of and inspired by Hendrix’s music, including Turtle Island Quartet founder David Balakrishnan’s new composition, “Tree of Life.”
Mar 30, 2011 News
Turtle Island Quartet will showcase its unique musical style to Sac State audience on Wednesday
By Alex Grotewohl
Published: Wednesday, March 30, 2011
The Turtle Island Quartet was born of a vision. Take a traditional classical music genre and blend it with the works of some of the greatest artists of the 20th century. A quarter century of style-bending later, the group will perform at Sacramento State Wednesday night.
Mark Summer, who has played cello for the group since its inception, said no one else on the classical music scene has been able to do what Turtle Island has done. Founder and lead violinist David Balakrishnan set out to assemble musicians who were as familiar with jazz compositions as with the classical string quartet. The result is a mix of sounds some critics have called the future of classical music.
Summer said Turtle Island has more of a group-based style, as opposed to the more individualistic tendency of previous string quartets.
“It is a toe-tapping experience,” he said. “And that is a big difference between a traditional classical and Turtle Island concert.”
The group is currently touring in support of their newest album, a tribute to the work of Jimi Hendrix. Like so much else they do, Summer said, the idea for this newest work came to Balakrishnan as if through divine intervention while touring a museum at the site of the original Woodstock Festival.
“We were watching a film of Jimi (Hendrix) playing at Woodstock, and a light bulb just went off over (Balakrishnan.)”
Summer said the show Wednesday will feature a four-movement suite of Hendrix-inspired music mixed with original work by Balakrishnan. They will also play the jazz material for which they are so well known.
Whatever musical style an audience prefers, Summers insists they will be able to find something they like in Turtle Island.
“That is what we live for – bringing those groups together,” he said.
Alex Grotewohl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mar 28, 2011 News
Jay Blakesberg -The Turtle Island Quartet brings its interpretations of Jimi Hendrix tunes to Sacramento State on Wednesday.
Roundup: Turtle Island Quartet at CSUS
Friday, Mar. 25, 2011
The Turtle Island Quartet takes a different approach to the music of Hendrix – the four-piece string quartet approach – when it performs at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Sac State.
The classical-jazz fusion trendsetters have a special affinity for Hendrix. The quartet’s latest release, “Have You Ever Been …?,” interprets Hendrix’s rock legacy into the classic string quartet form, opening with a four-song suite and closing with four more tunes (after an original “Tree of Life” interval).
Co-founders David Balakrishnan and Matt Summer have a keen appreciation of the guitarist’s musical prowess. “The whole idea was to showcase Hendrix as a composer,” Summer said in a recent telephone interview from his Marin home. The cello player arranged and performed Hendrix’s “Little Wing,” a highlight of the set.
“What wasn’t hard about it was (the fact that) I play electric guitar, so I knew what he was doing,” Summer said of his task of translating the tune from guitar to cello. “The sounds of an electric guitar are a little bit harsh to me, but I have this beautiful cello that I can play the notes on. When I went to work on ‘Little Wing,’ I was listening to Hendrix and his guitar and his voice and his drums, and I wanted a way to synthesize all that and to make it sound not classical but true to its style.
“The idea is to give the listening ear enough information,” he said. “With enough care and style, you can make it sound really right. It’s an intimate dance to get all the parts together.”
The idea for “Have You Ever Been …?” was violinist Balakrishnan’s and can be traced to two Hendrix concerts he attended as a teenager at the Los Angeles Forum in 1969 and ’70. Within days, he was playing the tunes on his violin.
“David’s more of a hard-rock guy, at least in terms of how he grew up, than I,” Summer said. “I’m more a Beatles, Michael Jackson pop guy.”
Summer taught himself to play drums and guitar but studied piano, then cello. “I kept them very separate,” he said. “Cello was always serious.”
Summer joined Balakrishnan to form the Turtle Island String Quartet in 1985. The original foursome also included violinist Darol Anger and violist Laurie Moore. Its current lineup includes Mads Tolling on violin and Jeremy Kittel on viola. The band officially dropped “String” from its name – in North America – with the 2007 release of “A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John Coltrane.”
“In the United States, a string quartet is sometimes a harder sale,” Summer said. “In Europe, our agent asked if we could keep the ‘String’ in. Our contemporaries – the Emerson Quartet, the Kronos Quartet – even if they had string in their name, they didn’t use it.”
Summer said he expects the group will “pretty much play the entire recording,” which means that in addition to the Hendrix tunes “Have You Ever Been (to Electric Ladyland),” “House Burning Down,” “1983 … a Merman I Should Turn To Be,” “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” “Gypsy Eyes,” “Hey Joe,” “Little Wing” and “All Along the Watchtower,” the program will include John McLaughlin’s “To Bop or Not To Be” and Balakrishnan’s “Tree of Life,” a suite that integrates classical, soul and Indian music from the composer’s background.
“I’ve come to the place where it’s all just great music to me,” Summer said. “It’s beautiful and interesting and intricate. The complexity of sound that you get when you put four members of the violin family together … it’s … an experience.
“It’s one thing to listen to us, but to watch us, the physicality of what we do, it’s great theater. It’s an elegant, intricate dance.”
Turtle Island Quartet, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Capistrano Hall at California State University, Sacramento. $10-$25. (916) 278-4323.
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Mar 25, 2011 News
String quartet tip bows to Hendrix
By Mike Bell, Calgary Herald
March 25, 2011 4:02 AM
Turtle Island Quartet performs Saturday at the Banff Centre.
Classical gets experienced? Hooked on Hendrix?
Both descriptions seem apt but really only scratch the surface when it comes to the current work of Grammy-winning string ensemble, Turtle Island Quartet, who bring their reinterpretations of the songs of Jimi Hendrix to the Banff Centre Saturday.
In fact, Mark Summer, cellist and co-founder of the acclaimed California act, sees performing material such as Hey Joe and Gypsy Eyes in a more classical setting as a fitting tribute to someone whose work and artistry is as timeless as that done by the Bachs and Beethovens of their day.
“It’s kind of like having the best of both worlds -present Jimi Hendrix’s music but give it a real respectful forum, in this context,” says Summer. “And to highlight what a brilliant composer he was, and not just a performer.”
For 25 years now, Turtle Island has been making connections such as that, infusing other elements, such as rock, jazz, pop, blues and country into the sometimes staid and stuffy string quartet format.
Along the way, they’ve earned the praises of the classical world for furthering the music’s cause by broadening the scope and making it more accessible, while not dumbing it down or disrespecting it. It’s something that Summer and the rest of the foursome knows is a fine line to walk.
“We’re painfully aware of how this could become a parlour trick, having a string quartet cover all of the parts of a rhythm section or a rock band or something,” says the musician who was trained at the Cleveland Institute of Music, before serving three years in the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. “It’s fun that we figured it out, it’s fun that someone in a sound check can call out a tune that we all know and without an arrangement we can all do it . . .
“But we’re trying to present a program that we’d want to go see and after awhile all of these Turtle Island tricks become tiring if they’re not connected to a larger vision of compositional development . . . and just doing what string quartets do so well -these four voices playing together to create harmonies.”
The Hendrix project, which can also be heard on the group’s latest release Have You Ever Been. . . ?, came from fellow co-founder and violinist David Balakrishnan exposure to the late musician, having seen him perform two shows at the L.A. Forum in 1969 and 1970 -both of which made an lasting and indelible impression.
Perhaps that’s why Balakrishnan threw himself so thoroughly into the project, arranging classic Hendrix tracks -Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland), House Burning Down, 1983. . . (I Merman I Should Turn to Be), and Voodoo Child (Slight Return) -into a four-part suite to open the album. For his part, Summer chose to tackle Little Wing, which he found a somewhat intimidating process.
“When I went to arrange Little Wing I was thinking about Jimi Hendrix as not so much a guitar virtuoso, which he was, but just as this musician who could really reach deep and touch your soul with this music. I was very intimidated to do it, because I think it’s a piece that means a lot to a lot of people,” he says. “So I went in, and I transcribed it and tried to figure out how I could inject my own personal vision of music on the cello into the piece. In fact, I kept going back and forth, and . . . my son, Michael, who’s 22, he heard me play it twice and the second time he said, ‘What happened to all of the cool stuff?’
“I had gone back to the transcription, because I was feeling like, ‘Well, people are going to get upset. I’ve got to really be true to this piece, it’s iconic.’ ”
Summer instead went back to the spirit of the song and the true sense of adventure inherent in Hendrix’s music. It’s that same sense of adventure the string quartet, itself, is quick to embrace, both in the repertoire it chooses, as well as the manner with which they perform it, as live events are even less button-down affairs, with the four members engaging with the audience almost as much as they do their instruments, in an effort to make the music infinitely more accessible. “Our way, the Turtle Island way,” Summer says, “is certainly to be user-friendly and to talk about what we’re doing and why.”
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