Electric Turtle-land


It's quite a challenge to transmit the electric zing of the great Jimi Hendrix's guitar on the acoustic instruments of the classical string quartet. Amazingly, the Turtle Island Quartet succeeds on Have You Ever Been...? Biting into their instruments, charging full speed ahead, then jerking back, sliding and wailing, they reveal the blues and rockabilly roots of Hendrix's music with a verve that puts most easy-listening versions of classic rock to shame.

Not every Hendrix tune on the album is by Jimi. John McLaughlin's "To Bop Or Not to Be," Billy Roberts' "Hey Joe," and Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" (featuring a great turn by Mike Marshall on mandocello) join a suite of four pieces from Electric Ladyland. "Gypsy Eyes" (with Stefon Harris a wonderful addition on vibes), and "Little Wing" (in a solo cello version by Mark Summer) round out the Hendrix contributions. The more I listen, the more I love it.

The center of the album features violinist David Balakrishnan's Tree Of Life. Inspired in part by the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's On The Origin Of Species, which occurred in 2009, the four-movement work is a fitting complement to the Hendrix that surrounds it. The first movement, "Ashwattha," derives its name from the Indian Tree of Life. The other movements, "Lucy," "Monkey Business," and "Coelacanth" refer to our ancestors. Jimi's music, on the other hand, speaks of another dimension entirely, where Turtle Island's light shines supreme.