Mike Marshall / Turtle Island String Quartet

Mike Marshall & the Turtle Island Quartet

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The fusion of classical string quartet music with bluegrass sounds unlikely, but as young conservatory-trained musicians have entered the bluegrass field it is no longer such a long shot. In fact, both halves of the present collaboration between mandolinist Mike Marshall and the Turtle Island String Quartet have progressive bluegrass credentials: Marshall first appeared with David Grisman's band in the 1970s and has a long record of inspiring a wide variety of collaborators, while the Turtle Island String Quartet was co-founded by the great pioneer of new acoustic music, violinist Darol Anger. Anger is present here only in an arrangement of Robert Johnson's Crossroads, which contains little that classical crossover quartets have not done before. Anger's erstwhile collaborator David Balakrishnan does better with a four-movement suite called Interplay that draws on Indian traditions and casts the mandolin in a variety of rhythmic roles, while Marshall writes several pieces featuring the mandolin as a more conventional lead. Probably the most intriguing works here are a group of Brazilian pieces in which Marshall and the quartet trade off functions. Fans of the Kronos Quartet from the classical side and Chris Thile and especially the underrated Anger on the bluegrass/new acoustic side will find much to enjoy here.

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