Turtle Island Quartet: Have You Ever Been....? : The Music of Jimi Hendrix and David Balakrishnan (2010)
While Jimi Hendrix has been an inspiration to many guitarists, regardless of their musical inclinations, few classical musicians have taken a deep look at his music. This changes on Have You Ever Been....? by Turtle Island Quartet; a group that has taken on the works of John Coltrane on A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John Coltrane (Telarc, 2007 amongst others.
The disc opens with a four-part suite of the songs from Hendrix's Electric Ladyland (Reprise, 1968), arranged by leader/violinist David Balakrishnan. The arrangements are inspired by Hendrix's approach to the guitar, and the psychedelic sounds of his era. It is interesting to note how the foursome was able to channel the late guitarist's style onto strings. "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" follows, with the group entering into an improvisational section halfway through. They successfully channel Hendrix's use of the tremolo bar, and when they play chords, it almost sounds as if the musicians were using picks.
The more mellow notes of "Hey Joe" fit the string quartet format well, opening with a subtle bluegrass feel, as Balakrishnan takes the lead. Halfway through, the arrangement grows in sound as the musicians take short solos and the tune comes to a gradual end.
"Little Wing" is Guitarist 101 for many aspiring musicians, and is a Hendrix tune that could not have been left out. Highlighted here is cellist Mark Summer, who performs an impressive solo that mixes chords, finger-picking and bow-generated percussion. Vibraphonist Stefon Harris joins the group for "Gypsy Eyes," enhancing the group with great improvised grooves.
Another highlight is the closing track, Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower," which features Mike Marshall on mandocello (a bass mandolin). The tune begins with the familiar intro riff, and then all the musicians begin to freely improvise around the melody. Marshall's presence gives the tune a fuller sound, providing more opportunity for individual moments from each of the soloists. Have You Ever Been...? is a great reminder of the influence that Hendrix still holds on contemporary music, and of a talent that was taken from us far too soon.
Track Listing: Have You Ever Been...? Electric Ladyland Suite: Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland); House Burning Down;1983... (A Merman I Should Turn to Be); Voodoo Child (Slight Return); To Bop or Not to Be; Tree of Life Suite: Ashwattha; Lucy; Monkey Business; Coelacanth; Gypsy Eyes; Hey Joe; Little Wing; All Along the Watchtower.
Personnel: David Balakrishnan: violin; Mark Summer: cello; Mads Tolling: violin; Jeremy Kittel: viola; Mike Marshall: mandocello (13); Stefon Harris: vibes (10).