Programs

Birth of the Cool

The Turtle Island Quartet employs their signature groove-based rhythmic techniques to create brand-new arrangements of cool jazz standards that prove that the line between classical music and jazz is much thinner than one might think. In addition to classics by Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, John Carisi and others, the quartet will premiere a brand-new work by co-founder and violinist David Balakrishnan. Called “Rebirth of the Holy Fool,” this work takes cool jazz as a starting point but borrows extensively from bluegrass, classical, jazz and Indian music – a work typical of the Turtle Island Quartet’s style, yet still utterly surprising and unexpected.

Rounding out the program are selections from the Turtle Island Quartet’s latest album, Confetti Man, out this fall. Confetti Man is an affirmation of the Turtle Island Quartet’s uniquely important role in contemporary music as they approach their 30th anniversary. On every track, the quartet delights in exploring the ambiguous worlds between different genres, and proves definitively that combining seemingly incompatible styles of music results in something that is much more than the sum of its parts.

 

 

A Flower is a Lovesome Thing
with special guest Nellie McKay

Singer, songwriter, multi instrumentalist, and actor Nellie McKay joins forces with the two time GRAMMY® award winning Turtle Island Quartet to present a delightfully kaleidoscopic view of the music of Billie Holiday, Billy Strayhorn, and the Weimar cabaret of the 1920’s. While the combination of voice and strings has long been a staple of the classical genre as well as of contemporary music, Nellie McKay’s talents on piano, mallets, and ukulele and Turtle Island’s famed innovative rhythmic techniques unleash an unprecedented range of possibilities. A healthy dose of original music, for which both Ms. McKay and the Turtle Island Quartet are renowned, rounds out this sweeping concert.

The multi-award winning Turtle Island Quartet has released numerous recordings and toured internationally for more than a quarter of a century. Recent projects include programs dedicated to two pioneers of the American musical landscape; John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix. The ensemble has collaborated with some of the most sought-after artists of our day including; Paquito d’Rivera, The Assad Duo, Cyrus Chestnut, and Leo Kottke. Nellie McKay, who performed on Broadway in The Three Penny Opera, here performs music of 1920′s Berlin as well as jazz standards made famous by Billie Holiday. Some of these pieces transcend time and genre, ranging from Marlene Dietrich to Lady Day, with a touch of Doris Day, whose music was so evocatively revisited by Nellie McKay on her recent recording Normal as Blueberry Pie.

Songs by the great Billy Strayhorn complete a night of intoxicating revelry.

Louisiana Story
with special guest Michael Doucet

The 1949 Pulitzer prize winning film score written by Virgil Thompson provides the inspiration for GRAMMY® award winning artists Michael Doucet and the Turtle Island Quartet to delve deeply into the myriad faces of Cajun music and beyond. Michael Doucet, leader of the famed ensemble BeauSoleil, is one of 12 recipients of the 2005 National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts. He has an encyclopedic mastery of this quintessential American music genre and reveals an astonishing range of stylistic influences from all over the globe.

Michael Doucet is an ideal partner for the Turtle Island Quartet, the world’s preeminent cross-genre string quartet. Afro Cuban rhythm, the modern jazz harmonic language, traditional and classical styles from France, and even South Indian tabla grooves all find their place at the table, a sumptuous meal with spice, sweetness and unbridled joy.

Mr. Doucet’s connection with Turtle Island Quartet dates to 1988, when he invited the newly formed quartet to perform at the “Festival International De Louisiane.” This American Francophone festival is still held annually in Mr. Doucet’s hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana, where recently they were reunited in a post-concert jam, directly leading to the evolution of this program—a petite fête, not to be missed!

Michael Doucet appears courtesy of The Rosebud Agency.


Poets & Prayers
with special guest Tierney Sutton

Turtle Island, the double GRAMMY® winning quartet that has re-defined chamber jazz for over twenty five years, is joined by the great jazz vocalist Tierney Sutton in a series of concerts that answers the simple question: What inspires us?

This historic collaboration overflows with inspiration. From the moving traditional hymn Wade in the Water to Joni Mitchell’s All I Want to settings of Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and words of Hafiz and Rumi- Poets & Prayers celebrates the muse, in all its forms.

The Turtle Island Quartet has been hailed by The Washington Post for their “excellent precision and musicality.” With numerous awards, including two GRAMMY®’s, and major appearances in the great concert halls of the world, the Turtle Island Quartet continues their long history of collaborations with outstanding guest artists. Tierney Sutton is now included in the ranks of Turtle Island guest artists – a list that also features the Assad Duo, Paquito d’Rivera, Kenny Barron, Stefon Harris, the Ying Quartet, Michael Doucet, and Cyrus Chestnut, among others.

Vocalist Tierney Sutton’s celebrated career has included multiple GRAMMY® nominations, appearances at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, and the Hollywood Bowl, and a series of well regarded recordings. JazzTimes says Sutton’s brilliance is her ability to blend seamlessly and The New York Times called her “a pure jazz spirit.”

Tierney Sutton appears courtesy of Unlimited Myles, Inc.

Have You EverHave You Ever Been…?
Turtle Island Quartet

Through their exploration of jazz, classical, American vernacular and world music styles, the Turtle Island Quartet has taken its audiences on a journey through many musical genres, eras, and places – the American landscape, Latin America, Europe, and India to name a few. Now the two time GRAMMY®-winning quartet ventures to Electric Ladyland, tackling works by legendary guitarist, songwriter and performer Jimi Hendrix, as well as other compositions reflective of and inspired by Hendrix’s music including TIQ founder David Balakrishnan’s new composition “Tree of Life.”

In addition to a suite of four Hendrix pieces taken from his seminal Electric Ladyland album, other highlights include a solo cello rendition of Hendrix’s “Little Wing,” by co-founder/cellist Mark Summer, Gypsy Eyes, incorporating elements from the Miles Davis/John Coltrane modal period that presaged the psychedelic explosion of the late sixties, and “All Along The Watchtower,” the Bob Dylan tune that Jimi transformed into a rock anthem. The four movement string quartet version of “Tree Of Life” uses the Darwinian archetype as an entry point into the signature cross-genre synthesis that has been the career defining imperative for Balakrishnan, who himself considers Jimi Hendrix to be one of his prime musical influences.

There will be a short intermission.

Love Supreme cdA Love Supreme
Turtle Island Plays The Music Of John Coltrane

Given the proper conditions, a work of art can transcend both genre and era, claiming its rightful place in the universality of human expression that justifies the very existence of mankind. Such is the case of John Coltrane’s jazz epiphany, A Love Supreme. Recorded four decades ago at a time when the country was deeply troubled by issues of race and war, Trane’s music was a personal statement of redemption and salvation that struck a chord in the hearts of millions, becoming one of the most enduring jazz recordings of all time. The string quartet form itself continues to thrive in the 21st century in no small part due to its impressive history of similar achievements in its two hundred year old canon. In exploring John Coltrane’s musical legacy, TI continues its own tradition of employing the string quartet form to shed new light on the timeless joy and beauty contained in the greatest music of the American jazz masters. The concert program will present an in-depth look at this landmark recording in the greater context of the music that preceded and followed, a time many consider to be the last great evolutionary period of jazz.

Mike MarshallCrossroads
Turtle Island Quartet with Mike Marshall

Mike Marshall is one of the most accomplished and versatile acoustic musicians performing today—well known for his collaborations with the leading artists of our day such as Edgar Meyer, Bela Fleck, and Chris Thile. Now, this master of the mandolin, guitar and violin, joins forces with the two-time Grammy®-winning Turtle Island Quartet for a series of unforgettable concerts. Together they undertake a musical journey through the American landscape. Various stops along the way include American fiddle and folk music, modern and vintage jazz, Latin American and South Indian music, the myriad folk and classical traditions of Europe, and beyond. Whether exploring the music of the many immigrant cultures of the 19th century or creating original work that melds these influences into new sounds, this great combination is not to be missed.

Solstice CelebrationA Solstice Celebration: The Festival of Lights
Turtle Island Quartet

This joyous voyage through world holiday music commemorates the quartet members’ ancestral roots with a concert showcasing the music associated with what is referred to in both the Jewish and Hindu traditions as the Festival Of Lights. From the songs of Chanukah, to the music of India’s Diwali, to the old English carols of the 16th century, TIQ explores the timeless music that has been an integral part of winter holiday celebrations for centuries. The program also features music from Vince Guaraldi’s beloved A Charlie Brown Christmas, as well as revisiting famous classical gems that have become so indelibly tied to the holiday season.

Paquita D'RiveraLuna Negra Dance TheaterDanzón
Turtle Island Quartet and Paquito D’Rivera with Luna Negra Dance Theater

After working with artists from all over the Latino world, and investigating the myriad of cultural influences that make up Latino culture, artistic director Eduardo Vilaro is returning to his own roots for Luna Negra Dance Theater’s 10th Anniversary season with the creation of a new work entitled Danzón The Danzón has been called the official dance of Cuba, and it initially evolved from Haitian contradance. Its current form was created by Miguel Faílde Pérez in 1879, and although the Danzón has evolved in many respects, much of the original structure remains. As traditional Cuban dance music, Danzón has never ceased to influence Cuban musicians, and its influences can be heard in virtually all popular Cuban music genres. It is this continuity that defines Danzón as a truly unique, living art form.

For this new work, Luna Negra Dance Theater will collaborate with the bold and ingenious Turtle Island Quartet, and legendary composer and performer Paquito D’Rivera. Turtle Island and Mr. D’Rivera have collectively won eleven Grammy Awards. Following the world premiere in Chicago at the Harris Theater, Luna Negra Dance Theater and the musicians will embark on a national tour- bringing this fabulous new music and dance experience to audiences across the country. Danzón is a commission of the Harris Theater in Chicago, the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center at the University of Notre Dame, and the Music Center at Strathmore. In partnering with Turtle Island Quartet and Paquito D’Rivera, Vilaro is taking this traditional and quintessentially Cuban dance form and reinventing and reinvigorating it as a modern work of art. In doing so, he is both introducing mainstream American audiences to a thriving Latino tradition, and creating a milestone moment in the continuity of Latino artistic expression.

PAST SEASONS

Silver AnniversarySilver Anniversary
Turtle Island Quartet with Special Guests Cyrus Chestnut and Mike Marshall

One evening in November 1985 four young and adventurous string players sat down together at a friend’s home for a nice meal and some string quartet music. One would normally expect the standard fare of Mozart, Beethoven, and maybe some Mendelssohn, but these early intrepid explorers of the alternative string music world had entirely something else in mind. Starting off with Oliver Nelson’s classic jazz ballad “Stolen Moments,” proceeding into Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night In Tunisia,” and culminating in violinist/composer David Balakrishnan’s seminal four movement cross-genre opus, “Balapadam,” they began a journey that would shake the very foundation of the two hundred fifty year old string quartet tradition, and play a central role in the redefining of the stylistic boundaries of American classical chamber music.
Twenty five years later, having accumulated a mountain of well deserved accolades including GRAMMY® awards for their last two recordings, the Turtle Island Quartet has chosen, as collaborators, two acclaimed artists for their distinctive roles in American music today; jazz piano master Cyrus Chestnut* and virtuoso mandolinist Mike Marshall** will celebrate the silver anniversary in grand style. Messrs. Chestnut and Marshall, having both previously collaborated with Turtle Island individually, bring a dazzling array of possibilities to the quartet’s quarter century of repertoire. Classic jazz, Americana, and new works will highlight this extraordinary project.

Cyrus ChestnutICONS
Turtle Island Quartet with Cyrus Chestnut, pianist

Question: What do a well respected jazz pianist exploring the music of Elvis Presley and a string quartet that dares to attempt to recreate John Coltrane’s immortal A Love Supreme have in common? Answer: A desire to sift out golden nuggets of beauty and purity from the granite stratums of musical convention. Warner Brothers recording artist Cyrus Chestnut and the Grammy®-winning Turtle Island Quartet continue their grail-like quest in a program that matches a reinterpretation of Brahms celebrated piano quintet with a gospel-tinged fantasy of Down by the Riverside. The giants of jazz such as Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Louis Armb are given their just due and bluegrass legends like Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs are brought to the table for this musical feast. From the ICONS of music, these virtuoso players pull a program of unmatched brilliance.

Stefon HarrisThe Divine Duke
Turtle Island Quartet with Stefon Harris, percussion

The name Duke Ellington conjures the vision of a musical genius who guided one of the most well-known orchestral units in the history of jazz. As a pianist extraordinaire and worldwide ambassador for American music and jazz, Ellington composed scores of tunes and songs that were the biggest hits of his time and to this day retain a major role in the jazz canon. The Duke had a serious, spiritual side as well. The series of sacred music concerts that he gave near the end of his life feature some of his deepest and most profound works. This visionary music combined jazz with classical and gospel forms and brilliantly foreshadowed the classical crossover genre of today‘s musical world. This body of work provides a perfect foundation for the bold new collaboration featuring the Grammy®-winning Turtle Island Quartet and renowned percussionist, Stefon Harris.

Ying Quartet4 + Four
Turtle Island Quartet and Ying Quartet

The Turtle Island Quartet and Ying Quartet collaboration features two dynamic string ensembles from opposite ends of the musical spectrum exploring the inner core and outer edges of their art form. The project was inspired by idle conversation between Phillip Ying and David Balakrishnan while they both were attending a Chamber Music America board meeting. The two groups had the opportunity to pursue the myriad possibilities in person during a subsequent Turtle Island engagement at Eastman School of Music, where the Yings are in residence. As the musicians threw ideas back and forth, such as what role improvisation and groove play in a classical string quartet and how vibrato is used in creating a sonorous blend when playing jazz, a preliminary concept for a central theme soon emerged: “Tradition versus Innovation.” During the first half of the program each quartet performs separately, demonstrating their individual styles of presentation and interpretation. The quartets unite in the second half to perform a new transcription of Darius Milhaud’s “La Création Du Monde,” the first significant attempt to use jazz in a concert work (1923). “Julie-O,” a virtuosic tour de force for cello duo by Mark Summer, follows. The centerpiece of the program is David Balakrishnan’s, “Mara’s Garden Of False Delights,”* a three-movement work imbued with the composer’s trademark stylistic integration of jazz, American vernacular, western classical and East Indian musical genres. The program ends with both groups squaring off in a classic ‘battle of the bands’ configuration to perform Evan Price’s masterful “Variations on an Unoriginal Theme,” which takes the audience on a tour through a brief history of chamber music, beginning with a bit of simulated Haydn and ending with the sounds of James Brown! Telarc released the collaboration nationally in 2005.

Assad BrothersString Theory
Turtle Island Quartet and Sergio and Odair Assad

At first glance, the coming together of a string quartet and a guitar duo may seem like nothing more than an entertaining night on the town. But these two super-groups of the string world, both having irrevocably altered the face of their respective traditions, have something altogether different in mind. Think around the world in one evening of wild celebration, astounding virtuosity and deep beauty, from the lands of Africa and India to the Appalachian Mountains, to the rhythmic poetry of the Balkans, the warmth and passion of Brazil, the hard-swinging elegance of Gypsy jazz a la Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, and everything in between. Join the Assad Brothers and the Turtle Island Quartet as they postulate a new unified string theory of their own design.

EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES

The Art of the Groove
An exploration of rhythm in classical and popular forms through lecture/demonstration
Length: 60 minutes; 6th grade to college level

The focus in this program is on the fundamental rhythmic differences between European classical and American vernacular forms, using the rich historical connection to the traditional string quartet as the point of departure for a cross-cultural musical journey that begins with Beethoven and ends with….Turtle Island Quartet! The quartet identifies the “back-beat” as the key, unveiling it in its various stylistic guises with the help of the audience, and then the quartet embarks on a simple and methodical layering of the basic building blocks employed in creating a jazz string combo, one instrument at a time. Turtle Island discusses the various techniques that allow it all to happen, including innovative percussive techniques, emulation of other instruments (saxophone, guitar, trumpet, bass, etc.), neo-classical phrasing, composition and arranging, and basics of improvisation. One of the highlights is an exploration of the American fiddle tradition, utilizing the second theme of Dvorak’s American Quartet. Also touched upon are odd meters in jazz ala Dave Brubeck, Hip-Hop/60s rock ala Jimi Hendrix, R&B ala Tower Of Power and clave rhythms of Latin American music. There is even a little fun with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Throughout all, the back-beat rules.

Note: the Quartet always reserves time for questions. The question period is built into projected show times.

A String Quartet is Like a Family
A special lecture/demonstration program for younger audiences
Length: 60 minutes; up to 700 students; K to 6th grade

This engaging and accessible presentation for children in grades K-6 utilizes the model of the family to help students understand how a string quartet functions and thrives. Turtle Island draws comparisons between the interactions of the quartet and the audience’s families, giving children a personal reference point that greatly helps them to gain a simple but profound understanding of the complete dynamics that drive musical groups. The children also learn to discern the many different styles the quartet presents, and young instrumentalists are presented with a new model of what is possible to achieve on string instruments. Members of the audience are invited to participate throughout the presentation, joining in rhythmic clap-alongs, dialogue with quartet members and a question-and-answer period following a rousing rock and roll finish. This presentation can easily be modified to include middle school students.

Note: the Quartet always reserves time for questions. The question period is built into projected show times.

It’s About Time
Workshop formats to fit every type of string program
Various lengths and formats; groups of 25 or less; Junior High to College level

How often is it that young string students lose interest in playing simply because the musical options that are given have little relevance to their lives? The chance to improvise can be pure gold for such students. Turtle Island is fiercely dedicated to spreading the word that the bowed string instrument is one of the most versatile on the planet, and there should be no limit to what is possible to play and play well, be it Bach or the Beatles. To that end, the quartet offers masterclasses that fit every need, from one-hour

sessions for beginners to week-long intensive jazz string seminars at educational institutions worldwide. Much of Turtle Island’s music is available in sheet music form for both string quartet and string orchestra, and Turtle Island also has study aids that they bring especially for teaching. However, because the printed page can distract students from using their ears and intuition in creating these new sounds, TI avoids relying too heavily on written materials. Ultimately, this experience can leave the student with a much deeper appreciation of the storehouse of European classical literature that we all treasure and wish to preserve.

Note: the Quartet always reserves time for questions. The question period is built into projected show times.

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