September 2010 • Issue 329 Page Thirteen
Turtle Island Quartet
Have You Ever Been…?
TISQ takes on a big challenge in transforming the
music of rock guitar legend Jimi Hendrix to the language
of a classical string quartet, yet succeeds with exhilarating
flair on the six Hendrix tunes (as well as seven more
tunes by TISQ founding violinist David Balakrishnan
and others). This disc follows their Grammy winning
2007 recording, A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John
TISQ is Balakrishnan (violin, baritone violin), cofounder
Mark Summer (cello), Mads Tolling (violin) and
newcomer Jeremy Kittel (violin). The origins of this
project trace back to two Hendrix concerts at the L.A.
Forum that Balakrishnan attended as a teenager in 1969
and 1970, which led him to practicing Henrdix guitar
licks on his violin.
Decades later, his interest in Hendrix was fortified by
a visit to the Woodstock Museum where he watched a
video of Hendrix’s performance.
The title work, a seamless four-piece suite of Hendrix
tunes including “Have You Ever Been (To Electric
Ladyland),” “House Burning Down,” “1983…A Merman
I Should Turn to Be,” and “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”
opens the album. That piece segues into John McLaughlin’s
lively “To Bop Or Not To Be.”
While the troupe adroitly translates Hendrix’s music,
it’s really Balakrishnan’s four-movement composition,
“Tree of Life” that is the album centerpiece. Inspired by
Darwin’s Origin of the Species, it contains four pieces
(“Ashwattha,” “Lucy,” Monkey Business,” and Coelacanth”)
which reverently embrace Indian classical music,
bluegrass, swing, bebop, Afro-Cuban styles and more.
Vibraphonist Stefon Harris is featured on the catchy
TISQ’s interpretation of Hendrix’s bluesy “Gypsy Eyes.”
Summer skillfully performs Hendrix’s “Little Wing” as a
solo cello piece.
Other tunes include Billy Roberts’ ballad, “Hey Joe,”
and Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” featuring
Mike Marshall on mandocello. Hendrix made the latter
tune popular in his 1968-recorded version.
This highly recommended addition to the TISQ discography
proves that, after 25 years, this group still has
the ability to dazzle the listener. Nancy Ann Lee