The Strad Issue: January 2011
Musicians: Turtle Island Quartet
Composer: Hendrix, Balakrishnan

The Turtle Island Quartet has previously tackled Coltrane, Gillespie and Brubeck. This time it’s Jimi Hendrix who gets the Turtle treatment.

It’s a brave quartet that tackles something as iconically electric as, say, Voodoo Child. Though the classic riff of this particular song loses its rebellion and some of the swagger, the ensemble comes through more than unscathed. Hendrix’s music is given a down-home feel, with graceful yet earthy slips and slides, and rhythmic backings that are choppy, dry and funky. The languorous, woozy portato that varies the feel has an airiness that is partly down to the recording set-up – welcome here but leaving the music a touch short of aggression in edgier places.

Each individual shines when called upon – whether it’s the abandon of the violin solos in Voodoo Child, the dirty, almost distorted viola breaks or the impressive translation of Fender Stratocaster on to cello in the solo Little Wing.

Balakrishnan’s Tree of Life suite retains the album’s nifty folk-craft and punchy rhythms but with a lighter glaze, before a version of Gypsy Eyes that is as bold as the rest of the album, throwing aesthetic caution to the wind with the addition of vibraphone – as elsewhere, it works.

Chris Elcombe