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Live Reviews

Turtle Island String Quartet Performs "A Love Supreme" at Stanford

By Published: March 1, 2008
Summer highlighted the before-the-encore finale, Stanley Clarke's "Song To John," plucking dual left- and right-hand melodies (He called it an effort to replicate Clarke's "things on the double bass that shouldn't be done," while someone I was with said it more closely resembled Stanley Jordan). It's an ideal composition for the group's meshing of classical and contemporary, from their cadence resembling Copland's "Hoedown" to the whimsical tossing in of a few lines from The Simpsons. As is often the case with audience-rousing endings, perhaps the concert should have ended there, as the standing ovation was immediate, loud and sustained.

They returned for an encore, Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments" and, while the piece was more scholarly and subdued (Summer again shining, this time with a progression of walking bass lines consistently ranging just beyond their expected paths), it didn't possess the same communal energy. The crowd remained in their seats afterward, although about a fourth of them continued to stay there for the 20-minute question-and-answer session that followed.

A few listeners I talked to afterward, who said they were string quartet fans but unfamiliar with Turtle Island, claimed the performance was too dissonant for their tastes. At the same time, I can imagine a few hardcore fans of Coltrane's edgier horn lines missing something in the timbre. Otherwise, it was like hearing a new singer doing a surprisingly skilled cover of a classic, with the alternative sound canvas stirring a spiritual feeling that captured the essence of A Love Supreme—at least as convincingly as any interpretation since Coltrane's lone live performance of it in France in 1965.

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