If the Kronos Quartet playing transcriptions of Monk or Bill Evans is your idea of string-quartet jazz, then you're in for a big surprise with the Turtle Island String Quartet. Rather than simply transcribing jazz harmony and lyricism to the world of the string quartet, minus the rather obvious and distinctive element of rhythm, the Turtle Islanders are all accomplished jazz musicians who write their own tunes, arrangements, and improvisations. The result is not jazz-colored string-quartet music, but rather full-blown jazz rethought exclusively for, and performed by, a string quartet. In essence, the four players function much like a traditional jazz band, with the cello performing the "walking bass" function, while the two violins and viola alternate lead improvisations, jazz voicings, and--an invention of violinist Darol Anger--"chopping," i.e., taking the bow and dragging it across a given string in rhythm, in much the same manner that a jazz drummer might ride a cymbal. This group really swings, and it has to be heard to be believed. Its Chicago debut could just as effectively be brought off in the club circuit, although in this case it's presented by Chamber Music Chicago, as part of its ongoing and innovative DejAvant 89 series. Monday, 8 PM, Royal-George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted; 242-6237 or 663-1628.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marvin Collins.