ISU Headlines

Turtle Island Quartet to perform music of John Coltrane

Posted October 25, 2007

The Turtle Island Quartet, a force in the exposition of daring and original trends in string music, is scheduled to perform their rendition of the late jazz musician John Coltrane’s music on Nov. 17 in the Joseph C. and Cheryl H. Jensen Grand Concert Hall at the L. E. and Thelma E. Stephens Performing Arts Center at Idaho State University.

This concert is part of the Stephens Center’s 2007-2008 “Season of Note,” an eclectic collection of fine-art productions providing unique musical and theatrical performances to southeastern Idaho.

World renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma has proclaimed the quartet to be “a unified voice that truly breaks new ground—authentic and passionate—a reflection of some of the most creative music-making today.”

Winner of a 2006 Grammy Award for best classical crossover recording of the year, the quartet fuses the classical quartet esthetic with contemporary American musical styles to redefine the art of classical string music. This diversified mix of style has taken Turtle Island into forays of folk, bluegrass, swing, be-bop, funk, R&B, new age, rock and hip-hop.

The music of Turtle Island has been featured on several motion picture soundtracks as well as the “Today Show,” “All Things Considered” and “Prairie Home Companion.” The quartet has been featured in People Magazine and Newsweek and has collaborated and performed with such famed artists as Branford Marsalis and The Manhattan Transfer.

Still, Coltrane’s music – created primarily with saxophone, piano, bass and drums – posed particular challenges to a quartet comprised of two violins, a viola and a cello. “But,” says veteran jazz critic and historian Bob Blumenthal, “Turtle Island has met these challenges in the past through seamless blends of improvisation, transcription and original orchestration and with supporting parts that employ pizzicato unisons and walking figures.”

Turtle Island members include violinist David Bakakrishnan, who formed the quartet in 1985 while completing a master’s thesis at Antioch University. Other members are violinist Evan Price, cellist Mark Summer and violist Mads Tolling. Each contributes their individual talents to arrange the quartet’s musical compositions.

Speaking on their current Coltrane exposition, Balakrishnan states “we’re not classical players interpreting Coltrane’s music. We’re all jazz musicians who have spent years listening to and transcribing his solos. Each one of us has done this. So we’re trying to play this in a way that we’re really breathing his breath, but also incorporating these other influences that we feel.”

This past March, Turtle Island released its second album, “A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John Coltrane.” This album was designed as a celebration of the music of the revered jazz master whose genius transcends stylistic boundaries. In 2005, the quartet collaborated with the Ying Quartet to release the premier album “4 + Four.” The album offers a diverse mix of classical and jazz style and ushered Turtle Island into international success.

Ticket prices for the performance are $24 for main floor seats and $20 for balcony seats. For more information on this performance, or to purchase tickets, visit the Stephen’s Center Web site at http://isu.edu/stephens. For additional information contact the Stephen’s Center Box Office at (208) 282-3595.