Turtle Island Quartet pairs with Cyrus Chestnut

The Turtle Island Quartet reunites with jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut for a new program, Jelly, Rags & Monk
The two-time GRAMMY® winning ensemble and the luminary pianist come together to connect the dots from the early days of jazz and ragtime to the age of Thelonious Monk on Thursday, September 10 at Sheslow Auditorium in Des Moines.
With their trademark wit, virtuosity and irreverence for traditional genre demarcations, the members of the Turtle Island Quartet are the perfect candidates to put a unique spin on the works of Jelly Roll Morton, Scott Joplin and Thelonious Monk, drawing out surprising connections along the way. On their brand new program, Jelly, Rags & Monk, the Turtle Island Quartet reunites for the third time with the extraordinary jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut.
This new collaboration, which delves deeply into both jazz and classical traditions, is the ideal way to celebrate the group’s landmark 30th season. The Turtle Island Quartet and Cyrus Chestnut will perform Jelly, Rags & Monk at Sheslow Auditorium, presented by the Civic Music Association, in Des Moines, IA on September 10, 2015 at 7:30 PM. Additional performances will take place in Austin, TX; Winston-Salem, NC; New York, NY; Charlotte, NC; and Fairfax, VA, among other cities throughout the U.S.
Back when sheet music was the means of musical transmission, in the hands of composers like Debussy and Stravinsky, ragtime found its way into the classical repertoire of Europe. But in the first part of the 20th century in America, the giant of ragtime and jazz was Jelly Roll Morton. Through their own arrangements, Chestnut and the Turtle Island Quartet explore the musical throughline that connects works like Morton’s Creole-inspiredTurtle Twist (a fitting work for this ensemble) with rags by Scott Joplin and timeless masterpieces by Thelonious Monk, who cited Morton as one of his main influences and whose Blue Monk prominently features ragtime rhythms and bent harmonies. Other works on the program include Joplin’s Pineapple Rag, Monk’s Bye YaAsk Me Now, and Nutty, and the premiere of a new work by Chestnut, written specifically for this program, that will fuse the styles of Morton and ragtime with Monk’s more modern take on jazz.
Turtle Island Quartet with Cyrus Chestnut Concert
Thursday, September 10, 2015
Sheslow Auditorium, Drake University
2507 University Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50311
7:00 PM pre-concert talk by Dennis Green, KCCK | 7:30 PM curtain
Concert tickets ($50, $450 $30 and $20) can be purchased at Midwestix ( or by calling the Civic Music Association at 515.280.4020. A 40% student discount is available prior to the concert, or a $10 student rush ticket can be purchased the evening of the show (based on availability).
For more information, visit or call 515.280.4020.
About the Turtle Island Quartet
Its name derived from creation mythology found in Native American Folklore, the Turtle Island Quartet, since its inception in 1985, has been a singular force in the creation of bold, new trends in chamber music for strings. Winner of the 2006 and 2008 GRAMMY® Awards for Best Classical Crossover category, Turtle Island fuses the classical quartet esthetic with contemporary American musical styles, and by devising a performance practice that honors both, the state of the art has inevitably been redefined. Cellist nonpareil Yo-Yo Ma has proclaimed TIQ to be “a unified voice that truly breaks new ground – authentic and passionate – a reflection of some of the most creative music-making today.”
The Quartet’s birth was the result of violinist David Balakrishnan’s brainstorming explorations and compositional vision while writing his master’s thesis at Antioch University West. The journey has taken Turtle Island through forays into folk, bluegrass, swing, be-bop, funk, R&B, new age, rock, hip-hop, as well as music of Latin America and India …a repertoire consisting of hundreds of ingenious arrangements and originals. It has included over a dozen recordings on labels such as Windham Hill, Chandos, Koch and Telarc, soundtracks for major motion pictures, TV and radio credits such as the Today Show, All Things Considered, Prairie Home Companion, and Morning Edition, feature articles in People and Newsweek magazines, and collaborations with famed artists such as clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, guitar legends Leo Kottke and the Assad brothers, The Manhattan Transfer, pianists Billy Taylor, Kenny Barron, Cyrus Chestnut and Ramsey Lewis, singers Tierney Sutton and Nellie McKay, the Ying Quartet and the Parsons and Luna Negra Dance Companies.
About Cyrus Chestnut
Virtuosic and playful, pianist Cyrus Chestnut’s hard swinging, soulful sounds havebecome a staple in the jazz community. Blending contemporary jazz, traditional jazz and gospel, plus the occasional seasonings of Latin and samba, Chestnut gives himself plenty of freedom to explore different emotions, while keeping his music in recognizable form. Add to that his apparent ease on the piano, and you’ve got a musician who really does know how to put a smile on your face.
His “lush chords, playful grace notes, worshipful tremolos and effortless runs up and down the 88s” are sure to impress, but it’s his warm demeanor and irresistible sweetness that make him “one of jazz’s most beloved ambassadors.”
An extremely versatile pianist, Chestnut has played with many leaders in the music scene including Wynton Marsalis, Freddie Hubbard, Branford Marsalis, Chick Corea, Dizzy Gillespie, Jon Hendricks, and Betty Carter, recording and performing live around the world. His leadership and prowess as a soloist has led him to be a first call for the piano chair in big bands including the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Dizzy Gillespie Big Band, and Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra.
For 91 years, Civic Music Association has existed to engage, enrich and educate the central Iowa community through provocative, world-class musical performances by legends and rising stars. Our vision is a community where people are positively impacted by hearing, seeing & feeling great music through Civic Music Association.

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