SOMETHING TO SING ABOUT
February 2010 / Strings
During the past few decades, ensembles as diverse as the Turtle Island String Quartet, Black Swan Quartet,
Uptown String Quartet, and Quartet San Francisco have greatly modified our notions of the string quartet,
bending and mixing genres, reinvigorating improvisation, undertaking unconventional collaborations, and
re-imagining traditional and vernacular tunes in purely instrumental concert settings.
Now comes the Real Vocal String Quartet (violinists and vocalists Irene Sazer and
Alisa Rose, violist and vocalist Dina Maccabee, and cellist and vocalist Jessica Ivry),
whose eponymous debut recording on Flower Note Records (rvsq.com) demonstrates
the ultimate circling back to musical roots by fusing uncommonly polished string-quartet
playing with haunting, expressive singing by the quartet members.
The range of material is wide, from original compositions and improvisations by the
quartet members to settings of New York pop, Brazilian choro, Kenyan traditional lyre,
and Appalachian fiddling. But this is neither post-modern gumbo nor high-art rework-
ing—the spirit animating this CD, to my mind, is that of folk legend Pete Seeger.
These musicians sound as if they have openly and conscientiously explored musi-
cal cultures outside their own, enthusiastically embraced these influences, and are
expressing their pleasure without overthinking such matters as authenticity and social
The playing and singing is gorgeous, the flow of the recording is like a river, and
even when the mood is dark, they’re absorbed and having fun. And they want you to
have fun, too.
—David A. Lusterman