Turtle Island Quartet will bring their “Birth of the Cool” tour, featuring new arrangements of cool jazz standards that blur the line between classical and jazz genres to the McAninch Arts Center (MAC) and Club MAC this February.

In addition to performing their versions of classics by Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, Lenny Tristano and others, the quartet will premiere a brand-new work by founder and violinist David Balakrishnan. Called “Rebirth of the Holy Fool,” this work takes cool jazz as a starting point but borrows extensively from bluegrass, classical, jazz and Indian music – a work typical of the Turtle Island Quartet’s eclectic style, yet still utterly surprising and unexpected. Selections from the Turtle Island Quartet’s latest album, the Grammy Award-nominated Confetti Man, will round out the program.

The innovative ensemble includes Balakrishnan (violin), the quartet’s founder and resident composer, along with Alex Hargreaves (violin), Malcom Parson (cello) and Benjamin von Gutzeit (viola). For three decades, Turtle Island Quartet has been a propulsive force in the creation of bold, new trends in chamber music for strings. Winner of the 2006 and 2008 Grammy Awards for Best Classical Crossover Album, Turtle Island fuses the classical quartet aesthetic with contemporary American musical styles. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma has called the quartet “a unified voice that truly breaks new ground – authentic and passionate – a reflection of some of the most creative music-making today.”

One of the more unique aspects of Turtle Island is their revival of venerable improvisational and compositional chamber traditions that have not been explored by string players for nearly 200 years. At the time of Haydn’s creation of the string quartet form, musicians were improvisers, composers, and arrangers much like today’s saxophonists and keyboard masters of the jazz and pop world. Each Turtle Island member is accomplished in the art of improvisation come to the stage with extensive conservatory training.

The idea for Turtle Island Quartet grew out of Balakrishnan’s brainstorming while completing his master’s degree program at Antioch University West. The journey has since taken Turtle Island through forays into folk, bluegrass, swing, be-bop, funk, R&B, new age, rock, hip-hop, as well as music of Latin America and India; and into collaborations with famed artists clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, guitar legends Leo Kottke and the Assad brothers; The Manhattan Transfer, pianists Billy Taylor, Kenny Barron, Cyrus Chestnut and Ramsey Lewis., among other luminary collaborations.

For more information about the upcoming concert at Club MAC on the McAninch Arts Center campus in Glyn Ellyn, call 630.942.4000 or visit AtTheMAC.org.

The Turtles Island Quartet: Jeremy Kittel, left, David Balakrishan, Mark Summer, and Mads Tolling (photo by Jay Blakesberg).

Turtle Island Quartet to Bring Their Eclectic Fusion of Classical, Jazz and Blue Grass to The Mac