Although their inclination to improvise and their occasional tendency to cover jazz standards seemed to mark them as a jazz outfit, the Turtle Island String Quartet usually got classified as a new age group, if only because they recorded for Windham Hill and, after all, they were a string quartet. As of the self-released Art of the Groove, however, the group currently consisting of violinist David Balakrishnan, violinist Evan Price, violist Danny Seidenberg, and cellist Mark Summer are no longer with the venerable new age label, and they have upped the number of jazz works in their repertoire. Titles by Michael Brecker, Chick Corea, Jean-Luc Ponty, and Dave Brubeck can be found here, as well as swinging versions of Leonard Bernstein’s “Cool” from West Side Story and Leo Kottke’s “Oddball.”
Especially effective in a quartet arrangement are Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo a La Turk,” its vibrant theme, once carried by Brubeck’s piano, now handled by sharply bowed strings, and “Cool,” which retains its edgy sound. If such selections make it seem that the Turtle Island String Quartet is showing a special fondness for 1950s music, that’s true, though they mix in enough later material and originals to create a satisfying balance. The title Art of the Groove suggests a somewhat funkier record than this turns out to be; what you really get are strings that know how to swing.
– William Ruhlmann, allmusic.com
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