Turtle Island String Quartet in deep water with Tierney Sutton
By Bob Karlovits
Published: Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 8:54 p.m.
Tierney Sutton and the Turtle Island String Quartet have found a philosophical agreement in their music.
Singer Sutton says she and the quartet will show more than simply an agreement on keys and tempos Friday at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on the North Side.
“It is a very purified commitment,” she says. “At its best, music gets to the core of the matter. And that is what the Turtles do. They go beyond the music and deal with the issues.”
Cellist Mark Summer, a founding member of the string quartet, agrees that working with Sutton is more than simply working with a singer. It is a job that rises to the level of “looking for the meaning that really inspires us.”
The shows at the North Side site are called “Poets & Prayers” because they look at the spiritual statements that are part of music but sometimes are lost in the enjoyment that exists otherwise. They will present music from the works of Joni Mitchell to a version of John Coltrane's “A Love Supreme” in which Sutton will sing a poem the saxophonist wrote to go with his famous song.
Sutton says the best part of this agreement is that Sutton and the quartet are so much in tune with each other they are “more like a quintet than a quartet appearing with a singer.”
She and the quartet are alike in another fashion, too. They all deal with a variety of music. Sutton works hard at doing her own versions of famous songs to new looks from the pop field. Turtle Island has moved from its New Age roots to works with mandolinist Mike Marshall or saxophone great Paquito d'Rivera.
Sutton says this teamwork has its roots in conversations she and Summer began about five years ago.
“I had listened to her ‘Dancing in the Dark' album, the tribute to Frank Sinatra, and was just amazed at her phrasing,” he says. “I thought it would be good to work together.”
The talks continued, until the business side of music began to get matters moving.
“One day, Mark said to me, ‘We may be going somewhere; our agents are talking,' ” she says.
About that time, she had been working on her version of “A Love Supreme,” so when Turtle Island violinist David Balakrishnan suggested doing “something spiritual,” Sutton proposed it.
Talks then turned to the thoughts of Joni Mitchell, and the development of arrangements for four of her tunes, including “Little Green” and “All I Want.”
Sutton says she believes the music of Mitchell is vastly underrated. Listening to Mitchell “is closer to listening to Billie Holiday than a pop singer,” she says. “Her lyrics really make her stand apart.”
She and Summer agree the five musicians all were shocked at the synchronicity of the talks about the music to perform. Both also marvel at how the music goes from “Wade in the Water” to a version of George Harrison's “Within You, Without You.”
Sutton says the range of songs shows the universality of musical thought. At its best, music does not only examine matters of life, but tries to find their meaning.
She says her Baha'i faith says music provides “wings by which the soul ascends to heaven.”
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7852.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates notebook: Huntington narrows team’s offseason targets
- Penguins’ Neal suspended five games for Marchand hit
- Expert: KO doesn’t mean ‘worst’ concussion for Pens’ Orpik
- City calls UPMC’s claim of no employees a ‘charade’
- Pirates will shop while Burnett makes his decision
- UPMC doctor killed trying to help at 50-vehicle pileup
- Florida congressman loses $18M in stock scheme
- Melvin appeal cites actions of prosecutors, judge
- Steelers WR Brown says ‘I thought I had it clean’ after wild, near-miss finish
- NFL notebook: League calls reversal judgment call
- Kovacevic: Enough of these Steelers already