WEEKEND REVIEWS / Jazz : Quartet Shines as Ensemble

Jokingly calling themselves “the bad boys of ethnocentric alternative improvisational chamber music,” the members of the Turtle Island String Quartet dug into a wealth of music on Friday at Marsee Auditorium of El Camino College, playing the music of Thelonious Monk, Jimi Hendrix and others with brio.

Darol Anger and Tracy Silverman (violins), Danny Seidenberg (viola) and Mark Summer (cello) scored with the ensemble passages, which were as thick, plush and colorful as a handmade Oriental carpet.

On McCoy Tyner’s “Blues on the Corner,” the group captured the pianist’s shimmering densities. Hendrix’s “Gypsy Eyes” and “Fire” found the quartet managing to mimic both the guitarist’s trademark melodic-statement whine, and the thack-a-whack punch of his rhythm guitar work.

The musicians were less successful as jazz soloists, though Anger and Summer showed that their ability to develop a groove is growing. “Tonight Show” band member Vicki Randle added a guest vocal on “You’ve Changed,” delivering some perky wordless passages but getting overly emotional during the lyric reading.


Sometimes the playful band crossed over into the world of cute, as in the employment of a mule-walk passage from “On the Trail” as part of Monk’s “Ruby, My Dear.” Such silliness undercut the power of an otherwise first-rate affair.