Turtle Island Quartet to perform works of Jimi Hendrix at Lucas Theatre on Friday
October 21, 2010
By Kenda Williams
It’s not often that an audience can hear a classical string quartet play the works of rock legend Jimi Hendrix with creativity, precision and respect.
In its latest album, “Have you ever been…?,” classical and jazz innovators Turtle Island Quartet surprise fans with their take on several Hendrix songs, as well as Hendrix-inspired compositions they wrote and recorded.
The Turtle Island Quartet will celebrate their 25th anniversary as a band, with special guests jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut and virtuoso mandolinist Mike Marshall, in a performance Friday at the Lucas Theatre.
Cellist Mark Summer, one of the original members who helped co-found the string quartet, said the group performs in celebration not only of their silver anniversary but also in recognition of their Hendrix-inspired album’s recent release.
Creating the “Have you ever been…?” record was a collaborative process within the quartet.
“We spent a lot of time listening to Jimi Hendrix and coming back to the arrangements to see how we could pull it off. To us, that’s the ultimate challenge – to take a piece of music and do something unexpected that hasn’t been done,” Summer said.
The idea to create the album came after the quartet played a show at the original site of Woodstock. Upon touring the site and watching several films from the festival’s archives, the quartet’s founder, David Balakrishnan – who saw Hendrix perform while growing up in Southern California, suggested the quartet play compositions from Hendrix.
“We worked hard to honor what Hendrix had done and to be true to David’s vision,” Summer said.
He believes fans of the Turtle Island Quartet have given a positive response to the record, so far.
“It’s fun and relaxing to come hear us play,” Summer said. “We can inspire young string players who maybe want to have a career different than what their parents did or offer them an alternative way to express themselves (musically).”
Trained in classical music, the group doesn’t perform much in the way of pure classical, but they aren’t restricted in the genres they can play. Their repertoire includes a wide range of original compositions and songs from musical icons across history.
By founding the quartet in 1985, “David had the idea that he’d take these styles and great musicians and play their compositions with string instruments,” Summer said.
He said the quartet doesn’t require multiple instruments to create a particular sound, although they enjoy bringing in special guests to play with them.
“There’s got to be a depth of understanding of the music and compositions. Every member has a distinct role in the band,” he said.
The most memorable part of creating the “Have you ever been…?” album, Summer said, was working with all of the members of the quartet.
“It was about all of us listening together to Jimi Hendrix,” he said. “It was a creative experience where we could talk to each other and figure out things like ‘how are we going to make that work?'”
IF YOU GO
What: Turtle Island Quartet
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Lucas Theatre for the Arts, 32 Abercorn St.
Admission: Tickets are $55, $48, $38, $20, and can be purchased by calling the box office at 912-525-5050 or at tickets.scadboxoffice.com.