When you think of songs like “Purple Haze,” “Hey Joe,” and “All Along The Watch Tower,” what comes to my sound mind is Jimi Hendrix. I loved how he often favored raw overdriven amplifiers with high gain and treble and whaled on that undesirable technique of guitar amplifier feedback. Hendrix was one of the musicians who popularized the wah-wah pedal in mainstream rock which he often used to squeel an exaggerated pitch in his solos, particularly with high bends and use of legato. Today in Studio G at the Mohn Broadcast Center, I am working on an underwriting spot for Grand Performances featuring a string ensemble, Turtle Island Quartet, playing tribute Hendrix music.
The Turtle Island Quartet, formed in 1985, has been a singular force in the creation of bold, new trends in chamber music for strings. Winner of the 2006 and most recently, the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Classical Crossover Album, Turtle Island blends the classical quartet sound with contemporary American musical styles.
The Quartet’s birth was the result of violinist David Balakrishnan’s brainstorming explorations and compositional vision while completing his master’s degree program at Antioch University West. The journey has taken Turtle Island through forays into folk, bluegrass, swing, be-bop, funk, R&B, new age, rock, hip-hop, as well as music of Latin America and India …a repertoire consisting of hundreds of ingenious arrangements and originals. It has included over a dozen recordings on labels such as Windham Hill, Chandos, Koch and Telarc, soundtracks for major motion pictures, TV and radio credits such as the Today Show, All Things Considered, Prairie Home Companion, and Morning Edition, feature articles in People and Newsweek magazines, and collaborations with famed artists such as clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, guitar legends such as Leo Kottke and the Assad brothers, The Manhattan Transfer, pianists Billy Taylor, Kenny Barron and Ramsey Lewis, the Ying Quartet and the Parsons Dance Company.
Other members of TIQ include Mark Summer (cello) who is a founding member of Turtle Island and is widely regarded, thanks not least to his phenomenal percussion and pizzicato techniques, as one of the outstanding cellists of our time. Mads Tolling (violin) has received Denmark’s Sankt Annae’s Award for Musical Excellence as well as grants from Queen Margaret, the Sonning Foundation and the Berklee Elvin Jones Award. Jeremy Kittel, (viola) newest member of Turtle Island, is rapidly earning a reputation as one of the nation’s most creative young musicians.
For more information on TIQ’s upcoming concert for Grand Performances, go to http://www.grandperformances.org.
(Audio is Grand Performances underwriting spot with MPR voice talent, Steve Seel, and music bed featuring Turtle Island Quartet performing, “House Burning Down.”)
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