[ NEW ON CD ]
The Turtle Island Quartet -- Mark Summers, left, David Balakrishnan, Mads Tolling and Evan Price -- has put together a worthy tribute to a jazz icon. CLICK FOR LARGE
Coltrane gets prime treatment from quartet
THE Turtle Island Quartet has been a steady crossover success for more than 20 years. Bridging classical, jazz and folk music, the foursome started off as one of the better acts on George Winston's new-age Windham Hill label. But instead of being content performing what was once termed "audio wallpaper," the quartet has constantly put its formidable instrumental skills to the test.
This latest project honors the memory and spirit of the legendary jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane. Veteran jazz critic Bob Blumenthal succinctly calls it "a magnificent recording" in the album's liner notes.
"A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John Coltrane"|
Turtle Island Quartet (Telarc)
What makes "A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John Coltrane" so excellent is not only the musicianship, imaginative arrangements and the digital recording itself (made live at Skywalker Sound in George Lucas' Marin County production compound), but the choice of material associated with Coltrane.
The quartet's interpretation of the titular four-part spiritual masterwork is the album's showcase. Especially noteworthy are the first two sections of "A Love Supreme." Violinist David Balakrishnan's arrangement weaves portions of Coltrane's own improvisation into the opening "Acknowledgment," played with precision and passion, and with that familiar mantra-like four-note figure. At the end of "Resolution," violist Mads Tolling plays an especially fine solo.
Among compositions the quartet would be expected to cover is Coltrane's take on "My Favorite Things," with everyone taking turns on the popular Rodgers and Hammerstein melody. The interplay of their voices brings out the inherent joy of the song, which was perhaps muted in Coltrane's post-bop version.
The quartet also takes on two pieces from Coltrane's classic "Giant Steps" album: a short but dazzling arrangement of "Countdown" by violinist Evan Price and Balakrishnan's arrangement of "Naima" (1989), with a gently swinging middle portion bookended by slow and stately sections.
But of special note is the inclusion of compositions that venerate Coltrane. Balakrishnan takes an inspired solo on "La Danse du Bonheur," written by guitarist John McLaughlin and violinist L. Shankar that reaffirmed the saxophonist's connection to India. And "Model Trane" is a showcase for the quartet, in particular cellist Mark Summer.
The legacy of John Coltrane has been done proud by the Turtle Island Quartet.