Tuned In: Jimi Hendrix, Turtle Island Quartet collide in a cloud of creativity
By Sue Gilmore
Contra Costa Times
The Bay Area-based Turtle Island Quartet’s members are undisputed masters of the classical mashup, and they have two Grammys to prove it — the latest being the 2008 best classical crossover award for their John Coltrane-themed album, “A Love Supreme.”
Some might say they’ve set themselves a higher challenge yet with their new release on the Telarc label, which turns from that hipster-cool jazz saxophone stuff to electric-acid rock guitar of the highest order. “Have You Ever Been “… which contains both the retorqued music of Jimi Hendrix and original compositions from Turtle violinist and lifelong Hendrix fan David Balakrishnan, celebrates its Tuesday debut with a post-release concert party Aug. 29 at the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley.
Such Hendrix megahits as “All Along the Watchtower” (actually a Bob Dylan composition that Jimi made his own forever, or at least until now), “Voodoo Child” and “Have You Ever Been (to Electric Ladyland)” get the sans-drums reinterpretive treatment from Balakrishnan and his cohorts — cofounding cellist Mark Summer, violinist Mads Tolling and new violist Jeremy Kittel, classically trained musicians all.
Founded in 1985 with a name taken from Native American legend, the quartet has covered everything from your basic Bach to folk, bluegrass, funk, bebop, rock, Latin American and Indian music in a career that has spanned a quarter-century. (They’re not the first hot classical act to channel Hendrix, though. The Kronos Quartet most famously did it with his “Purple Haze” 25 years ago.)
The music, which Balakrishnan has said elsewhere he hopes will come off as “ferocious but elegant,” will begin at 8 p.m. at the new Freight, now at 2020 Addison St., across from the Berkeley Rep. Tickets, at $24.50 in advance or $25.50 at the door, are at 510-644-2020 Ext. 1, or www.thefreight.org.
If you miss them there — or if you want to wait to hear what kind of impression they made — they are also booked for an 8 p.m. date at the Soda Activity Center at St. Mary’s College in Moraga on Sept. 29.