Quartet San Francisco: Whirled Chamber Music (2007)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Quartet San Francisco (QSF) is very much in the vein of the Turtle Island String Quartet, though this classical crossover band sticks closer to their arrangements than the TISQ. Led by composer/arranger Jeremy Cohen on violin, the group also includes violinist Kayo Miki, violist Emily Onderdonk and cellist Joel Cohen. Their second CD draws from a wide swath of musical styles, including seven works by the quirky 1940s composer Raymond Scott, standards and show tunes, jazz, pop, funk and more. The playing is superb, with every song taking unpredictable turns, leaving the listener smiling.
The music of Raymond Scott has been explored by musicians before, most recently by clarinetist Don Byron and the Metropole Orchestra. "Powerhouse is easily his best-known composition, with its two themes appearing in countless Looney Tunes cartoons, especially in scenes involving chases and robotic assembly lines. The quartet perfectly captures the playfulness of Larry Dunlop's scoring of this timeless piece. Cohen's setting of the lesser known "Peter Tambourine prominently features the viola in its oddly contrasting sections.
Earle Hagen's "Harlem Nocturne is a perennial favorite among saxophonists, and as a detective show theme; QSF transforms it into a cooker as well, with slashing violins suggesting a bit of drama. The rambunctious setting of "Gee Officer Krupke, from West Side Story, also works well. Mandolinist David Grisman penned the lively "Dawg's Bull for his unique acoustic group that blended elements of jazz, bluegrass, classical music and more, so it is a very logical choice for the adventurous QSF, which devours it whole. "Pick Up the Pieces, a funk hit for the Average White Band, sounds far more spirited in the hands of QSF, as does the intense reworking of Tower of Power's "What is Hip?.
Track Listing: Powerhouse; Spain; The Mooche; Pick Up The Pieces; Tanguori; Boy Scout In Switzerland; Peter Tambourine; I Hear Music; Harlem Nocturne; Dawg's Bull; Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen; The Penguin; Celebration On The Planet Mars; Gee Officer Krupke; The Toy Trumpet; Under The Sea; Siberian Sleighride; What Is Hip?.
Personnel: Jeremy Cohen: violin; Kayo Miki: violin; Emily Onderdook: viola; Joel Cohen: cello.
Record Label: ViolinJazz Recordings