Spring String Quartet

Train Songs

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This Austrian string quartet is the latest in a slowly lengthening line of pretenders to the Kronos throne, classical music hipsters with cool hair, great taste in clothes, and a desire to shock. Usually the shock factor is a matter of repertoire, and that's certainly the case with this thematically organized program, which consists of both new compositions and arrangements of pop songs and jazz standards, all centered around the idea of trains. You get Billy Strayhorn's "Take the 'A' Train" (in an innovative and beautiful arrangement by Michael Radanovics, who contributes almost all of the arrangements and two original compositions to this album) and John Coltrane's "Grand Central," as well as two train-themed Tom Waits numbers (the gorgeous "Downtown Train" is this album's highlight) plus the inevitable "Locomotive Breath" by Jethro Tull. Unfortunately, the band chose to open the album with an arrangement of Bon Jovi's "Homebound Train," one which only points up the musical impoverishment of the original. Equally strangely, the program ends with the Pat Metheny composition "Jaco," an ode to his late friend Jaco Pastorius that has no clear relevance to the program's theme. Still, this is an impressive album overall and one that fans of groups like the Kronos Quartet and the Turtle Island String Quartet will enjoy very much.

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