The Turtle Island String Quartet is among the most durable classical crossover ensembles in the U.S., dating back to the 1980s. Its membership has changed over the years, but its musical mix, shaped by violinist-founder David Balakrishnan, has remained remarkably consistent, featuring Indian-oriented compositions by Balakrishnan, jazz, abstract classical compositions, and sometimes bluegrass and other vernacular forms. The latter seems to have been laid aside on this release in favor of a delightful turn from vocalist Nellie McKay, who contributes a pleasantly strange version of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David tune Send Me No Flowers, and arrangements of music by jazzmen Wayne Shorter and Bud Powell by new members Mateusz Smoczynski and Benjamin von Gutzeit. The album doesn't break new ground (except perhaps in the McKay tune, which reminds one of some of the wilder vocal numbers released by the Kronos Quartet over the years), but it's a representative release worth checking out for those who may be curious about this durable incubator of serious American crossover talent. The engineering from Cleveland's small Azica label continues to be well above average.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim