State of Mind
Turtle Island Quartet – Have You Ever Been…? [Telarc]
by Doug Collette
October 22, 2010
Turtle Island Quartet – Have You Ever Been…?
It’s rare for any music lover to discover something like Turtle Island String Quartet’s tribute to Jimi Hendrix. Have You Ever Been…? wouldn’t seem to work in concept, but in execution it is a sublime pleasure.
Epiphanies come early and often on this disc. On the title song, Turtle Island reveals ever so clearly how the inner pieces of the composition play off each other. And that’s not to mention how the playing brings out the bittersweet, as well as the sense of adventure, in the song.
Inviting vibist Stefon Harris to join in on “Gypsy Eyes” was a brilliant move. His instrument adds to the ethereal quality of the music as the group renders it. Likewise, Mike Marshall’s turn on mandocello during “All Along the Watchtower” elevates the sense of flight in Dylan’s composition along with the air of impending doom Hendrix brought to his recording.
“House Burning Down” sounds like it was actually written with an instrumental lineup like TIQ in mind–or at least David Balakrishnan & Co make it sound that way. While the bulk of the near seventy minutes here is devoted to music written and/or recorded by Jimi Hendrix–including the brave choice of “1983…A Merman I Should Choose to Be” from Electric Ladyland — the group also navigates an extended piece of its violinist/composer/leader: based on Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species, “Tree of Life” is both mysterious and poignant but, most importantly, of a piece with the remainder of the material.
Have You Ever Been…? also includes one other complementary piece, “To Bop or Not to Be” by John McLaughlin, an avid admirer of both Hendrix and the broadly eclectic kind of music Turtle Island plays. Sandwiched in between the music of the late guitar icon and TIQ’s leader, it adds even more color and action to a wholly vibrant piece of work.