IN THE STUDIO: TURTLE ISLAND QUARTET CELEBRATES
25TH ANNIVERSARY WITH JIMI HENDRIX-INSPIRED RECORDING
Award-Winning Quartet Joined By Special Guests Stefon Harris, Mike Marshall
Through their exploration of folk, bluegrass, swing, be-bop, funk, R&B, new age, rock, and hip-hop, Turtle Island Quartet has taken its audiences on a journey through many musical genres, eras, and places – the American landscape, Latin America, Europe, and India to name a few. Now the Grammy®-winning quartet ventures to Electric Ladyland with their new project Have You Ever Been…, to be recorded at the Skywalker Sound studio from February 22-25. Turtle Island Quartet will tackle works by legendary guitarist, songwriter and performer Jimi Hendrix, but also other compositions reflective of and inspired by Hendrix’s music including TIQ founder David Balakrishnan’s new composition “Tree of Life.”
The innovative, boundary-breaking string instrumentalists of Turtle Island Quartet are meeting a unique challenge by taking on a great pioneer of the electric guitar. Although music from the psychedelic 1960s may seem like an unusual choice for a string quartet known best for their improvisational line-blurring between the worlds of jazz and classical, Hendrix himself was known for blending blues, rock, R&B and even jazz in his music.
In addition to a suite of four Hendrix pieces taken from his seminal Electric Ladyland album, Have You Ever Been… (Telarc, instores August 2010) will also include Ladyland’s “Gypsy Eyes,” reimagined by the Turtle Island Quartet with vibist Stefon Harris, and “All Along the Watchtower” with mandolinist Mike Marshall, a long-time TIQ collaborator. A master of the mandolin, guitar and violin, Marshall is touring the “Crossroads” program with the quartet this year, and will join them for their Silver Anniversary tour next season. As with many of the quartet’s recordings, Have You Ever Been… will also feature a solo cello rendition of Hendrix’s “Little Wing,” by co-founder/cellist Mark Summer.
Among the works on the album inspired by Hendrix include “To Bop Or Not To Be” by English jazz fusion guitarist/composer John McLaughlin, who famously jammed with Hendrix the year before he died and whom he cites as a huge influence, Hendrix’s version of “Hey Joe” gets a slower, more ballad-like treatment but still with a rock beat, and the premiere recording of “Tree Of Life,” a piece largely influenced by Hendrix and composed by Balakrishnan.
“I was so deeply influenced by Hendrix as a kid, in fact it is what inspired me to get ‘off the page’ so to speak,” states Balakrishnan, who founded Turtle Island Quartet in 1985. He explains that this influence has made its way into his own compositions, most notably incorporating the “Hendrix chord” (7th sharp 9) into many of his original works.
The solo string quartet version of “Tree Of Life” in four movements is an adaptation of the large form version for string quartet and symphonic wind ensemble, which included multi-disciplinary forces such as dance, theatre, spoken word and video technology in its exploration of the longstanding controversy that Darwin’s theory of evolution sparked – namely, the spirit world versus the natural world, religion versus science. Since the Turtle Island Quartet derived its own name from creation mythology found in Native American Folklore, the inclusion of this particular original composition on this recording sets Turtle Island Quartet apart from being mere interpreters of classic works, but innovators and contributors to the canon themselves.
“‘Tree of Life’ provides a nice sub theme of Have You Ever Been…?” Balakrishnan continues. “Plus, it is strongly conceived through composed music that will serve as an anchor to balance the freer, more pop-styled nature of the Hendrix material.”
The quartet’s timing couldn’t be better, with the anticipated release of previously-unavailable Hendrix masters, the relaunch of the Hendrix catalogue by Legacy Recordings, and the Experience Hendrix Tour all launching in 2010.
The Turtle Island Quartet – violinists David Balakrishnan and Mads Tolling, cellist Mark Summer and violist Jeremy Kittel – will continue their regular touring schedule throughout the 2010/11 concert season, celebrating their 25th anniversary.
For dates and more information on the Turtle Island Quartet, visit www.turtleislandquartet.com.