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University of Iowa News Release


Jan. 10, 2008

Turtle Island and Stefon Harris perform Ellington's sacred music Jan. 26

The Turtle Island Quartet and vibes/marimba phenom Stefon Harris will perform "The Divine Duke," a concert of Duke Ellington's sacred music, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, in the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium.

The concert was scheduled in conjunction with Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Week at the UI, and as a companion to the Feb. 12 "Love Songs of Duke Ellington" concert by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

The Turtle Island String Quartet is renowned for its innovative jazz approach to the string quartet while Harris -- already an Iowa City favorite after a 2003 residency and concert -- is one of the brightest lights among young jazz performing and recording artists. Together, they will explore the rarely heard sacred music of a composer whose status as a major American artist is unquestioned.

As a pianist extraordinaire and worldwide ambassador for American music and jazz, Ellington composed scores of tunes and songs that were the biggest hits of his time and that to this day retain a major place in the jazz canon. The Duke had a serious, spiritual side as well, and the series of sacred music concerts that he gave near the end of his life feature some of his deepest and most profound works.

This pioneering music combined jazz with classical and gospel forms and brilliantly foreshadowed the classical crossover genre of today's musical world.

The Turtle Island Quartet, which received a 2007 Grammy Award nomination for "A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John Coltrane," derived its name from creation mythology found in Native American Folklore. Since its inception in 1985, the quartet has been a leading force in the creation of bold, new trends in chamber music for strings.

Yo-Yo Ma proclaimed Turtle Island 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 journey has taken listeners through forays into folk, bluegrass, swing, be-bop, funk, R&B, rock and hip-hop, as well as music of Latin America and India.

The journey has included more than a dozen recordings on labels including Windham Hill, Chandos, Koch and Telarc; soundtracks for major motion pictures; TV and radio credits including "The Today Show," "All Things Considered" and "A Prairie Home Companion"; feature articles in People and Newsweek magazines; and collaborations with famed artists including clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera, the Manhattan Transfer, pianists Billy Taylor and Kenny Barron, the Ying Quartet and the David Parsons Dance Company.

A feature in the Los Angeles Times acclaimed Harris (photo, right) "one of the most important young artists in jazz." His passionate artistry, energetic stage presence, and virtuosity have propelled him into the forefront of the jazz scene. A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, he received a bachelor's degree in classical music and master's degree in jazz performance.

Harris earned back-to-back Grammy nominations for Best Jazz Album for "The Grand Unification Theory" and "Kindred," and he received a Best Jazz Instrumental Solo nomination for "Black Action Figure." His premiere as a leader, "A Cloud of Red Dust," was voted Best Debut Recording at the 1999 New York Jazz Awards.

Blackout, Harris' project featuring a hybrid of acoustic music and progressive sounds, debuted its CD, "Evolution," and also toured nationally. His latest CD is "African Tarantella," the result of a project in which Harris has performed re-orchestrations of Ellington's music as well as his own compositions.

He has recorded and toured with many of music's greatest artists, including Joe Henderson, Wynton Marsalis, Cassandra Wilson, Buster Williams, Kenny Barron, Charlie Hunter, Kurt Elling, Cyrus Chestnut, Steve Coleman and Steve Turre.

The Jan. 26 concert is supported by Miles Weinberger and Leslie Kramer-Weinberger through the University of Iowa Foundation. Media support comes from the Iowa City Press-Citizen.

Tickets are $32, $29 and $26; UI student $28.80 and $15; senior citizen $28.80, $26.10 and $23.40; youth $22.40, $20.30 and $18.20.

The Hancher Auditorium box office will re-open on Jan. 22. Business hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial 319-335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial 319-335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Even while the box office is closed, tickets may be ordered online 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's Web site

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail at

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Turtle Island: Milina Barry PR, 212-420-0200,; Harris: Karen Kennedy, 973 230-3160,; Winston Barclay, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073 (office), 319-430-1013 (cell),