Online since August 2002

Classic Coltrane, classically done

Reviewed April 2007

A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John Coltrane
A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John Coltrane
By Turtle Island Quartet

Telarc Records: 2007

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A grouping of two violins, viola and cello is most often associated with classical music; and while the members of the The Turtle Island Sting Quartet are all conservatory-trained musicians well-versed in the classical side of sound, they have spent a good portion of a two-decade career drawing their bow stings across the boundaries that separate the musical genres, recording tunes by seminal bluesman Robert Johnson; rock guitar legend Jimi Hendrix; and jazzmen Dizzy Gillespie, Oliver Nelson and Miles Davis; as well as forays into funk, R&B, Latin and Indian music.

With "A Love Supreme: the Legacy of John Coltrane," the quartet explores the jazz side of sound, taking on the legendary saxophonist's most celebrated albums, along with several other tunes either penned by or associated with Coltrane.

The quartet opens the set with "Moment's Notice," from Coltrane's classic "Blue Train" album. The original mainstream sound – this was the saxophonist's only album recorded for the classic Blue Note Records – featured a three-horn front line of trumpet, trombone and Coltrane's sax, delivering a dense, hard-driving sonic atmosphere. That harmonic density is maintained here, but the feeling, with the strings, is less gravitational, with a more lighthearted swing and gorgeously intricate interplay between the quartet members.

The disc also features the quartet taking on tunes from the saxophonist's groundbreaking 1958 "Giant Steps" album – "Countdown" and the much covered "Naima" – and Thelonious Monk's masterpiece, "'Round Midnight," that Coltrane recorded with Miles Davis on the trumpeter's first Columbia album, "'Round About Midnight."

The centerpiece and highlight of the disc is the four-part "A Love Supreme," one of Coltrane's most revered works, released on the 1965 Impulse Records album of the same name. The Turtle Island Quartet has pared the original thirty-plus minutes down to a tight twenty, fashioning a joyously swinging atmosphere full of string quartet verve and zing, while maintaining a reverence for the original.

Recording "with stings" sessions is something of a sub-genre in the jazz word. John Coltrane never traveled there; but "A Love Supeme: the Legacy of John Coltrane," serves up a beautiful example of his classic sound by a classic string quartet.

Review by Dan McClenaghan. Dan is a writer living in Oceanside, Calif. Read his biography on his AllAboutJazz.com page.

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