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Turtle Island Quartet Joins Cyrus Chestnut With Global Gospel Offering

Turtle Island String Quartet with Cyrus Chestnut
Lee Clifford
Courtesy of the artist
Turtle Island String Quartet with Cyrus Chestnut

"I don't believe America was founded to be one dimensional," pianist Cyrus Chestnut asserts. "It's various different people coming together, quote unquote, to develop something hip."

Chestnut is referring, in part, to a conversation between jazz, gospel and classical music that has been ongoing for well over a century. But he's also describing Carry Me Home,his decade-long collaboration with the Turtle Island Quartet, the subject of this episode of Jazz Night in America.

Now approaching its 35th year, Turtle Island — violinists David Balakrishnan and Gabriel Terracciano, violist Benjamin Von Gutzeit and cellist Malcolm Parson — stands apart from most other string quartets in its capacity to improvise and truly swing.

Jazz Night caught the fourth-ever concert performance of Carry Me Home, at the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre in the Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech. The program — ranging from gospel spirituals to Senegalese chants to jazz standards — illustrates what Balakrishnan calls "a blend kind of mentality." He was using that phrase to describe Chestnut, but on some level he could have been talking about the American experiment, which can only ever be a work in progress.

Set List

  • "Subconscious-Lee" (Lee Konitz, arr. B. von Gutzeit)
  • "Wade In The Water" (trad, arr. Cyrus Chestnut)
  • "Down In The Depths" (Wayne Shorter, arr. B. von Gutzeit)
  • "Chant Mouride" (Diame Beniot, arr. M. Parson)
  • "Jeannine" (Duke Pearson, arr. D. Balakrishnan)
  • "Come Sunday" (Duke Ellington, arr. Cyrus Chestnut)
  • "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" (Charles Gabriel, arr. Cyrus Chestnut)
  • "Lean On Me" (Bill Withers, arr. Cyrus Chestnut)


Turtle Island Quartet with Cyrus Chestnut: David Balakrishnan, violin, leader; Benni von Gutzeit, viola; Gabe Terracciano, violin; Malcolm Parson, cello; Cyrus Chestnut, piano


Producers: Alex Ariff; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Recording Engineer: Robert Gainer, mixed by David Tallacksen

Copyright 2024 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

Nate Chinen
[Copyright 2024 WRTI Your Classical and Jazz Source]
Alex Ariff