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January 26 8:00 pm
The Freight swings like it’s never swung before when the Esprit de Django et Stephane Festival sets the stage sizzling with three nights of music and a Saturday open house featuring workshops, performances, and a panel discussion inspired and influenced by the legendary jazz band, Quintette du Hot Club de France. Fronted by gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt and virtuoso violinist Stephane Grappelli, the Paris-based combo revolutionized jazz in the 1930s and 40s by applying an irresistible, string-fueled propulsion to the more sedate big-band sound of the time. This weekend’s festival showcases some modern heirs of Django and Stephane’s hot jazz sound, including festival house band George Cole & Eurocana who open all three nights of the festival, and Tangonero, who entertain in the lobby before tonight's show.
The Turtle Island Quartet returns to their East Bay home to present a special program of original works and music inspired by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli.
The two-time Grammy-winning quartet has been exploring the relationship between musical genres for nearly thirty years. Their bold and transcendent style incorporates features from all different kinds of music, and their ability to translate the inherent improvisational and groove-inducing aspects of jazz is unparalleled. The quartet has been bending genres since 1985, and their visionary approach took root at the Freight, where they performed their first official concert.
The Freight represents a home base for the quartet, and it has been a testing ground for their music since their inception. Violinist and co-founder David Balakrishnan describes the Freight as “a long time supporter of our music that shares a similar mission as us . . . they encompass a very wide range while adhering to the importance of high quality, primarily acoustic music making.” The Freight has been a musical laboratory for the quartet, a place to test and try fresh material in a supportive and equally creative environment.
The program features works composed specifically for the quartet by well-known jazz composers and musicians, including Vince Mendoza, Paquito D’Rivera, and Bob Mintzer. For David, “the music is unique in that it was written especially for us, and thus we are proud of our ability to allow the musical thoughts of these deservedly famous jazz musicians to be voiced through the string quartet form without being hampered by the limitations of classically trained players unfamiliar with the composers’ native tongue.”
TIQ co-founder David Balakrishnan performed with Stephane Grapelli in the early 1980s, and many of the selections in tonight’s program are in the style of Django and Stephane’s legendary collaboration. “We relish the opportunity,” David says, “to play Stephane Grapelli to Freight & Salvage’s Django.”
With David on violin along with Mateusz Smocynski, Benjamin von Gutzeit on viola, and co-founder Mark Summer on cello, the quartet brings zest, humor, imagination, and brilliant technique to bear as they fuse the classical quartet aesthetic with jazz, bluegrass, swing, be-bop, funk, folk, R&B, new age, rock, and hip-hop, as well as music from Latin America and India. “It must have been like this when Beethoven was taking Vienna by storm,” says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “the exhilaration of seeing the future of classical music unfold before your eyes and ears.”
This amazing jazz-infused program is an homage and a return to the quartet’s musical home base. They are going back, but always forward. This program illustrates the Turtle Island Quartet’s ongoing endeavor to create captivating music, which started at the Freight.
Listen to a track from Turtle Island Quartet:
Listen to sample tracks from upcoming artists.