Quartet San Francisco

Concert Review – The Washington Post

By Joe Banno, The Washington Post

The Quartet San Francisco, founded by violinist Jeremy Cohen of the crossover ensemble Turtle Island Quartet, is the latest in a line of classically trained string quartets bringing an eclectic mix of pop, rock and jazz works to the chamber repertoire. The program at Dumbarton Church on Saturday felt lopsided in terms of genre — 10 Argentine tangos, five Latin dance-influenced pieces and three non-Latin jazz arrangements. Still, the musicians played with breezy wit, fine technical finish and a genuine feeling for musical idiom.

A set of Astor Piazzolla’s inventive, groundbreaking tangos — which, like nearly everything on the program, were performed in skillful arrangements by Cohen — drew particular insouciance and rhythmic verve from the quartet. Cohen’s playful renderings of older, more traditional tangos gave even more pleasure, with their slithering glissandos, percussive effects and growling notes played on the “wrong” side of the bridge. Most ear-catching of all, though, was an arrangement by Turtle Island’s David Balakrishnan of “Cool,” from “West Side Story,” which managed to sound like Bela Bartok writing western swing. . .[excerpt reprinted with permission – visit the Washington Post website for full review]