Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Quartette Indigo

Quartette Indigo’s second release, Afrika! Afrika!, on Savant, underlines the versatility of this string quartet led by cellist Akua Dixon Turre, which includes violinists Regina Carter and Marlene Rice, as well as Ron Lawrence on viola. The eclectic set includes originals and standards as well as “Hound Dog,” which swings madly in their capable hands.

Akua Dixon Turre, who first put together the group 25 years ago, wanted to “make people enjoy the music and be able to pop their fingers.” For “Hound Dog,” to achieve the right sense of spontaneity, she used a head chart, believing that “string players are addicted to reading off the paper. If you read the paper, it’s going to sound like you’re reading it, and then you’re not going to pop your fingers.”

New York born and bred, Dixon Turre turned pro right out of high school. Over time, as a freelancer, she found that with string players, “if you learn to play classically, you try to play stylistically like that era. But when most string players play jazz and use Brahms phrasing, it doesn’t work.” Accordingly, she formed her group to show that string players can improvise effectively. In addition to their own gigs, the Quartette has backed Dizzy Gillespie, James “Blood” Ulmer and husband Steve Turre’s Sanctified Shells.

A major obstacle has been the attitude of jazz clubs, where, “if you don’t have a rhythm section or a saxophone, you don’t get any jobs.” But even with all this, and the challenges faced by two working parents, Dixon Turre perseveres, majestically. As we spoke, Quartette Indigo was rehearsing for a week-long gig with Cassandra Wilson at Lincoln Center paying tribute to Miles Davis. “I feel really blessed to have played with so many wonderful creators,” the Montclair, New Jersey resident proudly declared.

Originally Published