Four Little Sisters

Real Vocal String Quartet – Four Little Sisters
Real Vocal String Quartet

Four Little Sisters (Flower Note Records, 2012)

The Real Vocal String Quartet, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, has released its new album Four Little Sisters this month. The ensemble will be presenting the new material during an East Coast tour.

Real Vocal String Quartet is formed by four classically trained musicians, including Irene Sazer on violin and vocals; Alisa Rose on violin and vocals; Dina Maccabee on viola and vocals; and Jessica Ivry on cello and vocals.

The quartet is known for its combination of classical music, jazz improvisation, American roots genres and world music. On Four Little Sisters, the ensemble includes a tribute to Malian star Omou Sangare, new arrangements of songs by Brazilian star Gilberto Gil, Cajun maverick Michael Doucet and pop singer David Byrne; and a Swedish polska with a little bit of klezmer.

Because we do our own arrangements and it’s so open, I always have one antenna up, wondering if this or that song or tune would work,” describes violist Dina Maccabee. “Whenever I hear something that’s rich harmonically, I file it away.”

I’ve lived with certain favorites for years and years,” explains violinist Irene Sazer, an original member of the Turtle Island String Quartet, who arranged the track “Sweet Honey Bee” in Four Little Sisters. “Duke Pearson’s piano swings so hard and is so pristine and clear at the same time. It just blows me away. It’s just such an iconic and beautiful tune. We do some improv at the end, and everyone gets space to do it.”

I am a big pop music fan so I want to bring more of that to the band,” says cellist Jessica Ivry. “For whatever reason, I was obsessed with The Dirty Projectors’/David Byrne song, ‘Knotty Pine,’ and I was listening to it in the car constantly. One night I came home and though it was late, I decided I was going to figure it out for string quartet.”

We’re more of a coherent group now, and we put in a lot of time rehearsing,” adds violinist Alisa Rose, who arranged “Machine” and composed the bluegrass-infused “Elephant Dreams” for the album. “The pieces are very much in motion, and we always want to rearrange things, not just rehearse them. Pieces continue to change and evolve, which is an interesting aspect of our quartet.”

Four Little Sisters is a genuinely diverse album by a string quartet that holds great promise.

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