March 2005

Turtle Island String Quartet with Ying Quartet - 4 + Four
Telarc SACD-60630
Format: Hybrid Multichannel SACD
Released: 2005

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

The term "crossover" has evolved into something of a slur among musical cognoscenti due to the ghastly results that infect most efforts to play to audiences wider than the usual fan base. On paper, 4 + Four could very easily fall into that category, as two superb string quartets attempt to bring their styles of play to additional ears by surveying varied literature. That it does not is a testament to the technical abilities of these musicians, and the fact that they do not force themselves onto the music, but mold themselves to it.

The song list is an interesting mix of classical music partnered with jazz, pop, and self-penned material. The performers open the album with a superb version of Oliver Nelson’s "Yearnin’." The double cellos add fullness to the bottom end, and the four violins and two violas soar as they bring richness and vitality to this jazz classic.

The sound, whether via the CD, stereo SACD, or multichannel SACD tracks, is well engineered, as would be expected from an audiophile label like Telarc. I was especially pleased to hear the group in the front three channels in the multichannel mix, with the surrounds used only for ambience.

4 + Four is an eclectic mix of music that should prove, again, that there is an exception to every rule. If you are a fan of either quartet, or any of the pieces of music recorded here, do not miss this album.