“Consider, for instance, [David Balakrishnan’s] “The Second Wave.” Intended to showcase the Turtle Island Quartet, it sounds more reminiscent of Yo-Yo Ma’s Goat Rodeo project than a Terence Blanchard album. Actually, there’s no trumpet on the track at all. And that bravery in pushing beyond expectations is what makes it one of the album’s finest songs. At certain points, there is an undeniable bluegrass or Appalachian string feel to it. In others, it seems to come from the Western European classical tradition. And, at times, it borrows thoughts from klezmer and Middle Eastern music. “The Second Wave” is unlike any other song on Absence. But, in its creator’s undeniable openness to following wherever the music leads him, it fits Shorter’s musical ethos.”
–Rob Shepherd, PostGenre
“It is my pleasure to inform you that the Turtle Island Quartet has been chosen as the recipient of the 2015 NFMC Centennial Chamber Music Award. Your recording entitled “Confetti Man” was exemplary, and its compositional originality, variety, innovative approach to chamber music, and wide audience appeal sets a high standard of excellence for the performance of American Chamber Music.”-Dr Zuill Bailey, Sr.NFMC Centennial Chamber Music Chairman
This [Confetti Man] is an extraordinary disc and proof once again, if proof be needed, that the Turtle Island String Quartet is still one of the finest, if not the finest, jazz string groups of our time. We should be thrilled that they came out in our lifetime.
This kind of gonzo alchemy comes our way once in a blue moon, which made it all the sweeter.
While the respected Kronos Quartet visits…the frontiers of jazz, bluegrass, world music and even Jimi Hendrix; Turtle Island dwells in them, and stands tradition on its civilized ear.
This unique, jazzy four piece continues to entertain with its distinctive brand of tight, impressive bow-etry in motion.
Innovators to the core, the group was founded on an exploration of forms that had never been attempted in a traditional string quartet format. And they did it with amazing power and finesse. Their brilliant leads rise and subside seamlessly into the ensemble sound, keeping the focus on story line and rhythmic pulse and leading their listeners deeper into a comforting musical spell…
At some other time, in some other venue, I may have heard a better live performance. But I doubt it… astonishing virtuosos… the quartet’s performance was breathtaking…
It’s group string jazz at its finest, not only brilliantly conceived but brilliantly played as well, by master-musicians having a wonderful time with their own with and humor and imagination.
…intellectually engaging, technically dazzling and emotionally rich…
The strings sing, not like angels, but like they’ve been around. The improvisations…hang tough, solidly built, and take no back talk from anybody.
It must have been like this when Beethoven was taking Vienna by storm – the exhilaration of seeing the future of classical music unfold before your eyes and ears.
….zest, imagination and brilliant technique…
A sterling example of first-rate jazz music-making.
Impeccable precision in its pitch and coordination…ebullient!
It was clear from start to finish just how passionate each member was for the music they were making – from the constant eye contact among the musicians to the way that the members celebrated one another after each piece. This is a tremendous gift to an audience. By inviting us into their process with such ease, they make the experience a degree more personal, and we are challenged to listen harder
His [John Coltrane’s] spirit is evoked, with a loping then swirling version of ‘Naima’ that brings out all the poignancy and inherent beauty of the piece.
A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John Coltrane is the genuine thing…these conservatory-trained musicians are merging nothing; rather, they take their violins and cello and plunge deep into the stream of jazz and master one of its greatest works.
A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John Coltrane,’ was a sterling example of first-rate jazz music-making, whatever the instrumentation… Although the piece [‘A Love Supreme’] has been reinterpreted many ways since it was recorded in the ’60s (including ‘A Guitar Supreme’ by Larry Coryell, Mike Stern and others, and a CD/DVD version by Branford Marsalis), the Turtle Islanders’ take is unique. Balakrishnan’s thoughtful arrangement recalled passages from Coltrane’s original solos while creating lush textures and whirlwind rhythms underscoring both the musical and the spiritual complexities of the original composition.
By virtue of its instrumentation and the ability of its members to improvise, TISQ has stood apart…They alternately stretch and swing back into the melody, not unlike your basic jazz combo.
These guys play real jazz. They improvise solos. They swing. They employ jazz inflections. And they play the same instruments Haydn used in the 18th century.
This chamber Hendrix is a nice bookend to Gil Evans’ big band Hendrix. Guess he’s just not so scary to the mainstream anymore.
Turtle Island Quartet mastermind David Balakrishnan has gotten his genre-expanding colleagues to adventure with him through a long piece of his own — ‘Tree of Life’ — in the middle of a tribute to Jimi Hendrix… I found it interesting not only because of Balakrishnan’s four-part suite — with its compatible mix of influences — but for putting into the string-quartet format some long-ago popular music I was unfamiliar with…If you love the string-quartet sound and its capabilities, you will likely find something to enjoy in ‘Have You Ever Been…?’ And the Turtle Island Quartet is an excellent group, well-honed under Balakrishnan’s leadership since 1985. I thoroughly enjoyed the wizardly guest appearance of vibraphonist Stefon Harris in “Gypsy Eyes,” the most jazz-inflected tune in the set.
The art-hoedown of “House Burning Down,” … was immediately thrilling, and it was startling to realize how music as electric as Hendrix’s translates to an all-acoustic context.
A string quartet taking on Jimi Hendrix is no new idea (see Kronos Quartet or Turtle Island’s “Gypsy Eyes” on their 1994 “Who Do We Think We Are? album) but don’t be fooled. This is far more than a jaw dropper of a background Cd to play at your next wine and cheese tasting for your NPR buddies. Turtle Island has built their career on the deconstruction and reinterpretation of unexpected musical styles. Song selection leans heavily on the Electric Ladyland album and following the format set by 2007′s “A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John Coltrane” they include several of their own compositions.
Spicing up and stretching out cultural parameters of string quartet tradition…This is a group with a sterling past, future and an evolving present.
…the players came close [to Hendrix’s wizardly use of feedback and other forms of distortion] in “All Along the Watchtower,” a Bob Dylan song that Hendrix made his own. Just about all the details are in place, and much of the original energy is too
…the ability to create the best rock, jazz, rock, bluegrass and the rest in sonorities that are rich, transparent, balanced and blessedly lightly amplified.
Jazz performed by a string quartet? At first glance the two would seem mutually exclusive — until Turtle Island Quartet showed the world how it could be done.
The Turtle Island Quartet won their Grammy Awards in a category called ‘Best Crossover Album,’ but I’m not sure I would define their music as crossing over. It’s more like a dive into an experience of infused inspiration, heavy on the infusion, and a spiritual and musical journey like no other.
Overall, TIQ proved that classical music can live outside the bounds of traditional string music.