Turtle Island Quartet

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Turtle Island Quartet
(Front to back) David Balakrishnan, Naseem Alatrash, Benjamin von Gutzeit, Gabriel Terracciano
(Front to back) David Balakrishnan, Naseem Alatrash, Benjamin von Gutzeit, Gabriel Terracciano
Background information
OriginSan Francisco, California, U.S.
GenresJazz, classical crossover
Years active1985–present
LabelsWindham Hill, Telarc, Azica, Blue Note
Past members

The Turtle Island Quartet is a string quartet that plays hybrids of jazz, classical, and rock music. The group was formed in 1985 by David Balakrishnan, Darol Anger, and Mark Summer in San Francisco. They released their first album on Windham Hill Records in 1988 with Irene Sazer.[1]


The group plays jazz standards and original compositions that cross several styles, including blues, classical, jazz, and world music. Violinist David Balakrishnan got the idea for a jazz string quartet in 1985. He invited cellist Mark Summer, who had been working for three years as a member of a Canadian orchestra. One of the first pieces they played was Balakrishnan's arrangement of "Stolen Moments" by Oliver Nelson which was released on their first album in 1987. The group's members have included violinist Evan Price and Danish violist Mads Tolling.[2] Price and Tolling are both alumni of Berklee College of Music.[3]

As a child, Balakrishnan was inspired by Jimi Hendrix. Then he discovered jazz and the music of the David Grisman Quartet.[4]

Balakrishnan's arrangement of "A Night in Tunisia" by Dizzy Gillespie was nominated for an Grammy Award.[5] The group won a Grammy Award for its version of A Love Supreme by John Coltrane.[6]

The quartet has worked with Paquito D'Rivera, Ying Quartet,[2] Edgar Meyer, the Manhattan Transfer, Modern Jazz Quartet, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.[5]



  • David Balakrishnan – violin and baritone violin (original member) (1985–1993, 1997–present)
  • Benjamin von Gutzeit – viola (2012–present)
  • Naseem Alatrash – cello (2021–present)
  • Gabriel Terracciano – violin (2018–present)


  • Mark Summer – cello (original member) (1985–2015)
  • Darol Anger – violin and baritone violin (original member) (1985–1997)
  • Laurie Moore – viola (original member) (1985–1987)
  • Irene Sazer – viola (1987–1990)
  • Katrina Wreede – viola (1990–1992)
  • Jeremy Cohen – viola (1992)
  • Danny Seidenberg – viola (1992–2004)
  • Tracy Silverman – violin (1993–1997)
  • Evan Price – violin (1997–2007)
  • Mads Tolling – viola (2004–2007), violin (2007–2012)
  • Jeremy Kittel – viola (2008–2012)
  • Mateusz Smoczynski – violin (2012–2015)
  • Alex Hargreaves – violin (2016–2018)
  • Malcolm Parson – cello (2016–2021)



  • Turtle Island String Quartet (Windham Hill, 1988)
  • Metropolis (Windham Hill, 1989)
  • Skylife (Windham Hill, 1990)
  • A Shock to the System (Windham Hill, 1990)
  • On the Town (Windham Hill, 1991)
  • Spider Dreams (Windham Hill, 1992)
  • Who Do We Think We Are? (Windham Hill, 1994)
  • A Night in Tunisia, A Week in Detroit (Chandos, 1994)
  • By the Fireside (Windham Hill, 1995)
  • The Hamburg Concert (CCn'C Records, 1997)
  • Art of the Groove (Koch, 2000)
  • Danzon (Koch, 2002)
  • 4 + Four with the Ying Quartet (Telarc, 2005)
  • A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John Coltrane (Telarc, 2007)
  • Have You Ever Been..?: The Music of Jimi Hendrix and David Balakrishnan (Telarc, 2010)
  • Mike Marshall and the Turtle Island Quartet (Adventure, 2014)
  • Confetti Man (Azica, 2014)[8]
  • Bird's Eye View (Azica, 2018)
  • Absence with Terence Blanchard (Blue Note, 2021)


  1. ^ Ginell, Richard S. "Turtle Island String Quartet". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  2. ^ a b Child, Fred (11 May 2005). "Turtle Island Quartet: Bending Musical Lines". NPR.org. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  3. ^ "Grammy-winning Guitarist Jason Vieaux and Grammy-winning Violinist Evan Price Presented by DjangoFest Northwest". Whidbey Island. Retrieved 2020-07-03.
  4. ^ Child, Fred (28 December 2009). "Darwin's Theories, Speaking Musically". NPR.org. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  5. ^ a b Smith, Ken (1 May 1999). "Speak For Yourself! A Hyper-History of American Composer-Led New Music Ensembles". New Music Box. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  6. ^ Pulliam, Becca (17 September 2009). "Coltrane's 'A Love Supreme' Live, With Strings". NPR.org. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  7. ^ "Turtle Island String Quartet". Grammy. 14 May 2017. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  8. ^ "Turtle Island String Quartet | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 September 2017.

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