Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Star Maker Debuts: Turtle Island String Quartet

Turtle Island String Quartet: Crossroads (Robert Johnson cover)

Turtle Island String Quartet: A Night In Tunisia (Dizzy Gillespie cover)


Yeah, we don't usually post jazz fusion string quartet music, so I suppose these songs are particularly low hanging fruit for this week's theme. But before two-cello pop song covers were all the rage, and the String Quartet Tribute To Every Band Who Ever Sold More Than 50,000 Records trend started to boil the life out of the greatest hits catalogs of every major radiorock band on Earth, the Turtle Island String Quartet were the real thing, using cello, viola, and paired violins to push the limits at the intersection of jazz fusion, be bop, swing, classical, bluegrass and folk, in the process crafting several albums powerful enough to stay on my top 100 playlist all the way through my late teens and twenties.

Founded by violinist and composer David Balakrishnan in 1985 as a Master's thesis, the team has had several roster changes since its inception. But the quartet - who have dropped the word "String" from their most recent incarnation - remain a major player in the crossover world: winners of the Best Classical Crossover Grammy twice over in the last decade alone, their most recent recordings, which pay tribute to John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix, respectively, truly reimagine the works of these two very different artists rather than merely retreading.

In sum: the band affectionately called TISQ by its fans deserves credit and kudos for a tight body of work and an experimental spirit that paved the way for everyone from Crooked Still to Ben Sollee. Oh, and those damn string quartet tributes, I suppose. But you can't really blame them for that.

blog comments powered by Disqus