Jazz CD Reviews

Mads Tolling, violin – The Playmaker – MR Records

The album mixes jazz, fusion, funk, classical, rock ‘n roll and folk music.

Published on June 24, 2010

Mads Tolling, violin – The Playmaker – MR Records

Mads Tolling, violin – The Playmaker – MR Records MT-01, 1 hour ****:

(With Stanley Clarke, doublebass; Russell Ferrante, piano/keyboards; Stefon Harris, vibes; Mike Abraham, guitar; George Ban-Weiss, basses; Eric Garland, drums; Jeff Mars, drums)

I had thought I was unfamiliar with the young Danish-American jazz violinist and composer Mads Tolling, but then I realized he has been first violin in the Turtle Island String Quartet – one of my favorite groups – for some time.  The group won a Grammy as “best classical crossover album” for the 2006 album 4+Four. Tolling has also performed with Stanley Clarke’s band, Al Di Meola and Paquito d’Rivera. He views his instrument as part fiddle, part saxophone, part acoustic and electric violin.

Tolling’s idea with The Playmaker is to draw a link between music and ports, musicians and athletes, on the main theme of teamwork. He invited three of his favorite musical athletes to take part: Clarke, Ferrante and Harris, and three other musicians he likes get a movement each in his The Playmaker Suite. I don’t usually like the reggae beat, but the Risktaker third movement of the suite is a loping, captivating number. Starmaker Machinery is the longest track and gets fairly electronic in its Indian fusion bag, as befits its dedication to John McLaughlin.  The 11 tracks also include four originals by Tolling, plus a Danish folk song. The album mixes jazz, fusion, funk, classical, rock ‘n roll (with arrangements of tunes by Led Zeppelin and Radiohead) and folk music. There’s also a Monk tune and The Chicken is dedicated to bassist Jaco Pastorius.  I was reminded of Jean-Luc Ponty, but Tolling’s CD has more variety of approaches.

TrackList: Just, The Playmaker, The Contemplator, The Risktaker, El Duderino, Starmaker Machinery, Loki in the Pokey, I Skovens Dybe Stille Ro, The Chicken, Blue Monk, Black Dog.

 — John Henry

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