(PITTSFIELD, Mass.) – Classical/jazz fusion ensemble Turtle Island Quartet will celebrate the music of Jimi Hendrix with their dynamic Have You Ever Been…? program on Friday, February 17, 2012, at 8 p.m. at the Colonial Theatre.
Through its exploration of jazz, classical, American vernacular and world music styles, the Turtle Island Quartet has taken its audiences on a journey through many musical genres, eras, and places – the American landscape, Latin America, Europe and India to name a few. Now, the two-time Grammy Award-winning quartet is tackling works by legendary guitarist, songwriter and performer Jimi Hendrix as well as other compositions reflective of and inspired by Hendrix’s music, including Turtle Island Quartet founder David Balakrishnan’s new composition, “Tree of Life.”
At the peak of his creative powers in the late 1960s, Jimi Hendrix redefined the potential of not only the guitar but of rock music itself. Armed with an unprecedented combination of technical skills and compositional insight, he drew a blueprint that continues to challenge guitarists in particular and musicians of all stripes more than four decades later.
Turtle Island Quartet’s ongoing mission of exploration and innovation includes its Grammy-winning 2007 recording, A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John Coltrane, in which the quartet reinterpreted the music of one of the most pivotal figures in the history of jazz by injecting it with their own signature rhythmic innovations and multicultural influences.
Three years later, Turtle Island Quartet – whose current lineup includes Balakrishnan along with co-founder cellist Mark Summer, violinist Mads Tolling and newcomer violist Jeremy Kittel – pushed the edge of their stylistic comfort zone a step further with their latest recording, Have You Ever Been…?, an exploration of the music of Hendrix coupled with Balakrishnan’s “Tree Of Life. The recording includes a bluegrass-inflected version of Hendrix’s arrangement of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” and a lively, swinging, jazzy, vibes-colored rendition of “Gypsy Eyes.”
The Quartet’s birth was the result of violinist David Balakrishnan’s brainstorming explorations and compositional vision while completing his master’s degree program at Antioch University West. The journey has taken Turtle Island through forays into folk, bluegrass, swing, bebop, funk, R&B, new age, rock, hip-hop, as well as music of Latin America and India, a repertoire consisting of hundreds of ingenious arrangements and originals. It has included collaborations with famed artists such as clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, guitar legends such as Leo Kottke and the Assad brothers, The Manhattan Transfer, pianists Billy Taylor, Kenny Barron and Ramsey Lewis, the Ying Quartet and the Parsons Dance Company.
Another unique element of Turtle Island is their revival of venerable improvisational and compositional chamber traditions that have not been explored by string players for nearly 200 years. At the time of Haydn’s apocryphal creation of the string quartet form, musicians were more akin to today’s saxophonists and keyboard masters of the jazz and pop world, i.e., improvisers, composers, and arrangers. Each Turtle Island member is accomplished in these areas of expertise as well as having extensive conservatory training as instrumentalists.
One result of this dedication can be seen in Turtle Island’s international appeal, particularly in Europe where chamber music remains a vital facet of life. What was once termed ‘alternative’ chamber music now firmly inhabits the mainstream. Turtle Island members refine their skills through the development of repertory by some of today’s cutting-edge composers, through performances and recordings with major symphonic ensembles, and through a determined educational commitment.
Tickets to Turtle Island Quartet are $20-$45 and may be purchased in person at the Colonial Ticket Office at 111 South Street or by calling (413) 997-4444 or online at Colonial Theatre. The Ticket Office is open Monday-Friday 10am–5pm, Saturdays 10am–2pm or on any performance day from 10am until intermission.