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Author: Daniel Leonard

Turtle Island, Sutton to light up Macky with ‘A Solstice Celebration’

The cold and dark will have descended and the shortest day of the year will be just around the corner when the Turtle Island String Quartet and jazz vocalist Tierney Sutton warm things up a bit with “A Solstice Celebration” at Macky Auditorium.

“We plan to bring a little light to Boulder in the darkest part of the year,” says cellist Mark Summer, who co-founded the innovative chamber quartet with violinist David Balakrishnan in 1985. “We’re emphasizing the oneness of humanity at a time when we sorely need it.”

True to its reputation, the two-time Grammy Award-winning quartet for Best Classical Crossover Album will perform a show so varied that “eclectic” seems somehow short of the mark. The program will range from the Beatles to Bollywood, Joni Mitchell to Latin Chanukah tunes, Vince Guaraldi’s beloved Peanuts Christmas score to Miles Davis, “Silent Night” and beyond.

“A Solstice Celebration” is part of the Artist Series at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The musicians themselves bring a mix of traditions to their music. Sutton grew up Jewish, while Balakrishnan was raised Hindu and Sutton — the 2005 Jazzweek vocalist of the year and a five-time Grammy nominee — practices the Baha’i faith. Even the name of the quartet is rooted in American Indian creation mythology.

“It’s not a religious program. It’s just all of us, Turtle Island and Tierney, doing music that really moves us,” Summer says by phone from his home in northern California. “We’ll play a lot of pleasing and familiar music, but also take it deeper into a more spiritual realm.”

Sutton, who has played frequently with the quartet, is much more than a guest performer.

“We really are not like a band backing up a singer. It’s the five of us creating a quintet together,” Summer says.

As with all the quartet’s music, “A Solstice Celebration” offers a unique fusion of jazz, classical, world and pop influences.

As the Aspen Times has noted, “These guys play real jazz. They improvise solos. They swing. They employ jazz inflections. And they play the same instruments Haydn used in the 18thcentury.”

“The group was founded on an exploration of forms that had never been attempted in a traditional string quartet format,” says the Portland Oregonian. “They (do) it with amazing power and finesse … leading their listeners deeper into a comforting musical spell.”


The Turtle Island String Quartet with Tierney Sutton

“A Solstice Celebration”

WHEN: 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15

WHERE: Macky Auditorium, University of Colorado Boulder campus

TICKETS: $14 and up

INFO: www.cupresents.org or 303-492-8008