Live Notes – Nellie McKay & Turtle Island Quartet

This is the debut of a new series of blog posts – which I will call “Live Notes” – although this is still developing, in short, these posts will be written, live from free concerts I attend thanks to my new job the local, legendary Dakota Jazz Club.

As I don’t want to ruin the buzz of the live music, and because I refuse to offend the talented musicians in such an intimate setting, I will only turn to writing a couple of times throughout the concert.

Nellie Mckay & the Turtle Island Quartet performed at the Dakota this Wednesday, a fun and calm way to start-off a series of wonderful concerts.

As a big fan of Mark Summer and his bass cello, Turtle Island Quartet has been under my radar for quite some time now. The quartet, formed by 2 violinists (one of whom plays the viola as well – why his quartet mate called him a “barking cat”), one viola player,  and the cellist, Mark Summer. Some see them as a classical music quartet – although jazz string quartet is also applicable, as the musicians have the talent to switch through the genres as swiftly as their bows slide across the instruments’ necks.

The name Mark Summer to a lot of people means “Julie-O” one of the greatest modern cello compositions written for both a single cello and a duo. Julie-o might be a piece performed by cello students at senior recitals oftentimes – but it’s definitely not the only indicator of Summer’s genius and the quartet’s talents.

Nellie McKay – the quirky, jazzy lady of New York, was new to my ears. Her unique style was supported by an occasional ukulele or a prominent xylophone, and her lyrics were as unconventional and exciting as her style. Trained as a jazz singer, Nellie McKay dropped out of school and pursued her music career, and found her own tone – her voice at times made me feel as I was in a different point in history. She had a very retro air throughout the concert. Although her music is not particularly in my area of interest and passion – she nonetheless made the concert very enjoyable with her serene songs on the piano, and the occasional jokes she would whisper into the microphone – probably something that lingers from her career as a stand-up comedian.

Overall, it was a delightfully short and pleasant concert – a good way to let off steam in the middle of the week. Some of the concerts here at Dakota are two times in the same night – one early set and one late night set. The early set has its advantages – hanging around at the bar before the second set starts is a great way to write my immediate impressions of the concert.

Although I don’t know how this “Live Notes” concept will end up, one thing I am sure of is that these posts will be accompanied by good beer and wine – and lots of great music.

Next week’s chosen concert is Chick Corea & The Vigil – where he will be showcasing his new musical project. Check it out.


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