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Album Review

The Turtle Island Quartet has always been a difficult group to pigeonhole into any prefabricated category, and this session is no exception to that rule. During this meeting with the classical Ying Quartet, they cover a wide variety of music. The opener is "Yearnin'," a marvelous blues by the late jazzman Oliver Nelson, with a series of playful solos. The cellists from each group share a duet of Mark Summer's "Julie-O," a piece that is occasionally suggestive of the works of Aaron Copland and showcases their abilities playing both pizzicato and arco. Violinist David Balakrishnan contributed the ambitious three-part suite "Mara's Garden of False Delights," an exotic piece that provides the most fertile meeting ground for the two quartets. Darius Milhaud's La Création du Monde demonstrates the French composer's interest in jazz, as the two groups join forces for a turbulent adaptation of this early 20th century ballet score. Even the Beatles' "Because" is successfully arranged by violinist Evan Price into a vehicle for their musical explorations, which recognize no boundaries. This music is even more stunning as heard on the Super Audio Surround Sound edition, though it is also available as a regular CD.


Formed: 1985 in San Francisco, CA

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

While the Kronos Quartet cracked open the field of jazz for the once-exclusively classical string quartet, the Turtle Island String Quartet is the first whose members can actually improvise, thus giving the foursome much credibility in the jazz world. Their repertoire extends from bebop standards like "A Night in Tunisia" to Third Stream material to rock & roll treatments of Robert Johnson's Delta blues ("Crossroads"), throwing in bluegrass, South Indian ragas, and any other influences that they...
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