The Turtle Island String Quartet was not the first group of its kind to record jazz, but they have easily outclassed their competition in the years following this impressive debut recording. Each of the players is an accomplished soloist and also excels whether bowing, playing pizzicato, or playing percussion with their instruments.
Violinist David Balakrishnan’s imaginative arrangements of three jazz classics, Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Moments,” Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia” and Miles Davis’ “Milestones” (with its catchy pizzicato introduction simulating a harp) will easily stand the test of time. Violinist Darol Anger, a veteran of David Grisman’s band, came up with a furious score for Bud Powell’s “Tempus Fugit” and is featured on the octave violin, which sounds a lot like a viola.
Cellist Mark Summer and violist Irene Sazer prove themselves to be masterful musicians throughout the date. The remainder of the CD is devoted to a wide-ranging string quartet by Balakrishnan that defies classification under any one music label, and a series of seven improvisations by the quartet. Record labels, radio stations, and record stores have had problems figuring out how to market this very eclectic group, but regardless of how they are labeled, one or two hearings is enough to hook most discriminating music fans. This stunning debut is highly recommended.
– Ken Dryden, allmusic.com