Concert review: Turtle Island Quartet takes crossover jazz to new level
Published: Thursday, March 4, 2010 11:40 p.m. MST
TURTLE ISLAND QUARTET, de Jong Concert Hall, Brigham Young University, March 4
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.
Turtle Island Quartet, which played at BYU Thursday, has taken the concept of crossover to a new level — infusing jazz playing with classical parameters and classical idioms with cutting edge jazz. The resulting mix is innovative, original and not easily imitated. Turtle Island Quartet is without question in a class by itself.
At Thursday’s concert the foursome — violinists David Balakrishnan and Mads Tolling; violist Jeremy Kittel; and cellist Mark Summer — exhibited amazing string technique and virtuosity. All four are impeccable classical artists and phenomenal jazz players. Summer in particular was a whirlwind with his instrument, playing things that were seemingly impossible until one saw him actually doing it.
“School of Miles,” the program that Turtle Island Quartet played, is an indirect tribute to jazz legend Miles Davis. The music on the program, arranged by Balakrishnan, was written by people who played in Davis’ various bands throughout his career. Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Stanley Clark and Herbie Hancock were all represented on the program. Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance” was especially lovely, with the foursome bringing a soft mellowness to the piece.
The group also played Balakrishnan’s “Lucy,” a beautifully haunting piece in its harmonies and emotional power and the collectively composed “Model Trane,” a tribute to John Coltrane.
The four also played a couple of pieces from their recently recorded CD, “Have You Ever Been,” which will be released this summer. The album pays tribute to Jimi Hendrix, and in Balakrishnan’s arrangements the string quartet sounded remarkably like Hendrix’s guitar riffs.