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A string quartet implies precision and complete adherence to a written manuscript. Quartette Indigo, however, combines the sentiment of the blues with composed jazz music, both improvised and arranged. Cellist Akua Dixon Turre leads the quartet. Her sister Gayle Dixon plays violin, and John Blake plays the second violin part. The three have been together for over twenty years. Violist Ron Lawrence has to be flexible enough to switch roles during pieces; his function changes from rhythmic background to melodic foreground and back. Dixon Turre, who is married to trombonist Steve Turre, led this session for Landmark in 1994 and has since released the quartet's Afrika Afrika on the Savant label. Quartette Indigo also appeared on Steve Turre's 1988 Stash release Fire And Ice.
Like the stereotyped Gypsy violinist and the similarly typecast blues singer / guitarist, Quartette Indigo has a preference for expressive lyrical phrasing. Each member shares the melodic responsibilities, usually with the bow; other facets of the music are provided through plucking the strings and tapping the wood part of the instruments.
Steve Turre wrote "Andromeda" for their daughter; as do most families, this composition has both happy and dramatic moods, rhythmic complexity, and pure melodic simplicity. The quartet expresses these facets one after another; each member has a solo section. "The Ladies Blues" swings out with strength as if it were the classic "Killer Joe," while Thelonious Monk's ballad "Ruby My Dear" drifts along with interwoven harmony from the four melodramatic role-players.
Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday," from "Black, Brown, and Beige," features John Blake's violin in an expressive near-vocal delivery of the soothing melody. Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" features the leader, both as pizzicato "bassist" and with an improvised look at the familiar melody. Both lyrical and dramatic, Dixon Turre leads the quartet from an emotional as well as musically complete position. Recommended.
Track Listing: Rag Time Dance; Naima; Andromeda; Footprints; Efua; A Saturday Night On Beale Street; Come Sunday; The Ladies Blues; Ruby My Dear; Lift Every Voice And Sing.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.